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28th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention

Research into why people die by suicide is critical to saving those lives. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is committed to identifying suicide prevention priorities for Canada, while exploring opportunities for wider collaboration and knowledge sharing. During the 28th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), June 15-19, 2015, there were a number of opportunities to move the needle on these objectives.

To kick things off, on June 15th the MHCC, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research brought together more than 50 researchers from Canada and the United States, as a first step to identifying research priorities for suicide prevention. This meeting built upon recent efforts by the Steering Committee of the National Collaborative to co-operate on initiatives to prevent suicide, promote the use of research and share best practices in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.

“This meeting was an important opportunity to share experiences, expertise, and knowledge. Our collective efforts will help advance suicide prevention research and practice, which will benefit all Canadians,” says Megan Schellenberg, Knowledge Broker for the MHCC.

On June 16, MHCC Vice President of Knowledge and Innovation, Jennifer Vornbrock, and Phil Upshall, Special Advisor to the MHCC, attended a meeting to discuss the uptake and implementation of the 2014 WHO report on suicide prevention. Ms. Vornbrock also presented an update on the 308 Conversations initiative.

By June 17-20, the World Congress was well under way featuring a number of topics including: best practices for helplines; mental illness and other risk factors; gender and suicide risk; high risk occupations; and, many more.

Presentations included a report from Meg Schellenberg on the success of the MHCC & CASP's innovative virtual conference on suicide prevention this past November 19-21, 2014. The conference attracted 350 registrants from across the country and featured 42 individual webinars delivered online from the MHCC's Ottawa office. This report highlighted the increased engagement that this format allowed from greater participation by those in underrepresented areas, such as rural and remote communities.

MHCC partner, Allison Crawford from the Northern Psychiatric Outreach Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, presented a discussion paper on establishing a foundation for a national Inuit suicide prevention strategy. It examined risk factors and intervention and prevention strategies.

The IASP conference featured more than 100 different presentations from a multitude of experts and provided excellent opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing.

“I believe we are all poised to make great progress in the area of suicide prevention. The level of awareness about suicide and the willingness and commitment to take action is greater than ever,” says Jennifer Vornbrock, MHCC Vice President of Knowledge and Innovation.