In Ontario (where I live) there is a program called Health Babies Healthy Children. I believe that the same model ought to be put in place for families who have lost a loved one to suicide.
The purpose of Ontario’s Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program – to help children get a healthy start in life. The program does this by helping infants and children up to age six and their families through:
- screening and assessments to see if there are any risks that could affect a child’s healthy development and referrals to community programs and services
- supports for new parents
- help in finding community programs and resources on all kinds of subjects such as: breastfeeding, nutrition and health services, parenting programs and family literacy programs
Within days after your baby is born, a Public Health Nurse makes a phone call to the new mom to initiate the services offered. Essentially this is a health check, including mental health and advice is given for linking to existing community services as needed. After this initial contact, a home visit is scheduled as is another home visit weeks later.
The province of Nova Scotia has a similar program called Healthy Babies; Healthy Families. This program’s goals are:
– Promote the optimal level of physical,cognitive, emotional and social development of all children
– Enhance the capacity of parents to support healthy child development
– Enhance the capacity of communities to support healthy child development
– Contribute to a coordinated, effective system of child development services and supports for children and their families
Many of the goals in both of theses programs are for the mental health of babies, moms and families.
With such a program in place, families who have recently lost a loved one to suicide would automatically be offered care and connections to existing community services would be created. The Healthy Babies Healthy Children Programs are initiated by: midwives, physicians and hospitals with contact directly to public health nurses. The care for survivors of suicide could be initiated by: first responders, emergency room nurses and physicians, funeral homes and extended family or friends. The services offered would come to the family without the need for this to be initiated by the grieving family. With my personal experience, I lost my father to suicide when I was 17 years old and my youngest sister was 11 years old (there was 5 kids). Were we really expected to seek out help on our own? That was over thirty years ago.
Imagine the stigma reduction in such a program. Imagine the dialogue and support at the most difficult, traumatic and pivotal time in your life. Imagine if someone said, “let’s talk.”
What programs do we have in place today? Or do we continue to expect 11 and 17 year olds to find the help that they need on their own?
What support services for survivors of suicide do you have in your community through public health?
I look forward to your feedback and comments. Let me know what your thoughts are on this idea.
Not talking about it isn’t working.