Suicide, suicidal behaviour and mental health service use among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Labrador
Suicide prevention has long been a priority for Aboriginal and health care leaders across the north. To expand knowledge in this area, my doctoral research focuses on the mental health service use patterns of individuals with suicide-related behaviour in Labrador. The project evolved from local interest in using research to improve mental health services. During the early phase of my project, I worked with the Nunatsiavut Government, Innu Nation, and Labrador Grenfell Health to conduct community consultations on suicide prevention. This opportunity engaged stakeholders, provided a better understanding of community experiences, and identified research areas.
The consultation activities included a series of workshops, focus groups and interviews in central and northern Labrador. During the consultation process, I spoke with elders, youth, health care staff, and community leaders to gain their perspectives. One of the themes that emerged from these conversations related to the continuity of care in the mental health system. Many participants were concerned that patients do not receive adequate or timely mental health care. Participants also noted that people with complex mental health problems commonly face gaps in care when they are discharged from the hospital. These patients return to their communities but often with limited support and no real change in their circumstances.
To further explore these issues, I am conducting two quantitative studies. The first uses a case-control design to compare patterns of mental health service use between individuals who have died by suicide and matched control cases. The second study uses a cohort design to examine mental health follow-up care among individuals who visit the emergency department (ED). I am particularly interested in the relationship between social and clinical factors and repeat visits to the ED for suicidality. Both of these studies are retrospective chart reviews and will include linked data from patient health records. Ultimately, I hope this research provides an evidence base for improving mental health services and can support community efforts to prevent suicide in Labrador.