Youth suicide pact triggers call for action in Vancouver

The discovery of a suicide pact involving dozens of young people has prompted community groups to call for changes to youth and family services in East Vancouver.

Twenty-four children, most between 12 and 15 years old, were taken to hospital as a preventative measure after the suicide pact was discovered in late September. Almost all of the children are aboriginal and live in the Grandview-Woodlands area.

"Our youth workers are very active in the communities throughout the City of Vancouver and the schools," said Vancouver police Sgt. Randy Fincham.

"They were aware of some information and they acted on it right away. Obviously with the tips the media brought forward it ramped it up and expanded our look into it. Any time that does happen in the community we do appreciate it so we can act on it."

While authorities managed to step in and prevent a tragedy, a report by the Network of Inner City Community Services says several other 12- and 13-year-old children have been hospitalized in the past year after drinking until they blacked out.

The network says while the system was able to provide crisis response, there are few preventative measures and major changes have to be made to funding and programs.

The community groups are calling for what they call a place-based strategy to provide more flexible mental health and family support.

Earlier this month the province's Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said a review of case files on 15 suicides and 74 attempted suicides by young people over three years revealed gaping holes in the mental health care system that can often worsen problems rather than fix them.

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