The CAST Program works with Nova Scotians to build and strengthen their capacity to address suicide at the community level; recognizing that everyone has the potential to make a difference and can contribute to a community that is safer from suicide. The CAST Program considers the broader factors associated with suicide by using a population health approach in an effort to improve the mental health of all Nova Scotians, while reducing suicide risk. The CAST Program includes programs and services such as: suicide prevention/intervention/postvention awareness, education & training; CAST Coalition development & sustainability; resource sharing; and program evaluation.
The CAST Program Background
The CAST Program officially launched in September 2006 in direct partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association [CMHA NS] Nova Scotia Division and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (formerly the Department of Health Promotion and Protection).
Events and efforts that contributed to the creation of the CAST Program include:
Nova Scotia hosted its first symposium on suicide. Following the event, the document Benchmark and Recommendations To Address Suicide in Nova Scotia was released. The report suggested the development of community-based action groups to address suicide.
Following the symposium, concerned community members and government officials joined together to create the Nova Scotia Community Network to Address Suicide; the first community-led suicide prevention Coalition in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia’s injury prevention strategy (the first of its kind in Canada), the Nova Scotia Injury Prevention Strategy: Report and Recommendations, was released. This report identified self-inflicted injuries and suicide as priority areas and outlined the need for a provincial strategy to address suicide. Research cited in the strategy revealed that suicide was the leading cause of injury-related death and the third leading cause of injury-related hospitalization in Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia Strategic Framework to Address Suicide followed an in-depth, two-year consultation process. Goals of the strategic framework included: Leadership, Infrastructure and Partnership; Awareness and Understanding; Prevention; Intervention; Postvention; and Knowledge Development and Transfer. The CAST Program was consulted and contributed to the development of this framework.
The CAST Program Evaluation
In 2015 Horizons Community Development Associates conducted an evaluation of the CAST Program. The purposes of the evaluation were to describe the history/evolution of the CAST Program since its inception, to paint a picture of where the CAST Program is now, and to make recommendations for continuing to strengthen the CAST Program’s work into the future.