Harold Albrecht received an early Christmas present last week, in the form of approval of Bill C-300.
The bill was passed by the Senate, and received royal assent after Governor General David Johnson signed the bill in a special ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14.
Albrecht, the MP for Kitchener-Conestoga, was the sponsor for the bill, which will provide a federal framework for suicide prevention.
Albrecht first became involved in the issue after hearing of the story of Nadia Kajouli, an 18-year-old Carleton University student who killed herself in 2008. A Minnesota man was later convicted for his role in encouraging her to take her own life, over the Internet.
Albrecht's motion to clarify Internet-based suicide counselling in relation to the Criminal Code was inspired by Kajouli's story.
"When I first entered into this, I had no close personal relation who had committed suicide," said Albrecht. "But every one of us has been impacted by this issue, one way or another."
Albrecht said that this initial story led to many other conversations about suicide, with families sharing their own tough stories with him, helping him understand just how big an issue it is.
What saddens him the most is the number of young people committing suicide. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15 to 24 year-olds.
"When a young person that has such promise loses hope and chooses a permanent solution to a temporary problem, it's so devastating," said Albrecht.
Bill C-300 will provide a federal framework for suicide prevention, requiring the federal government to provide guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge of suicide, share best practices with agencies that deal with suicide prevention, and promote collaboration and knowledge exchange in suicide prevention.
Albrecht said he is hopeful that the establishment of this federal framework will help in the prevention of suicides, which happen at the rate of 4,000 Canadians a year — an average of 10 a day.
But he is even more hopeful that this legislation will prompt discussions about this issue that is so often veiled in secrecy.
"When we shine the light on these issues, it actually helps to expose them," said Albrecht. "It's not only a mental health issue; it's a public health issue."
Albrecht said the suicide prevention framework could also raise awareness, so more people are aware of the warning signs, and how to help someone contemplating suicide.
"I don't have to be a professional to ask a question," said Albrecht. "I don't have to be a professional to provide hope. We all have a role to play in this."
For information on suicide prevention, visit the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council website, at www.wrspc.ca.