It's Your Health
This article was produced in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
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Every year close to 3,700 people in Canada commit suicide. Many of these deaths could be prevented by early recognition of the signs of suicidal thinking and appropriate intervention, and early identification and effective treatment of mental illness.
According to a Public Health Agency of Canada report in 2006, suicide accounts for 1.7 % of all deaths in Canada. However, this statistic does not take into consideration those suicides wrongly reported as accidental deaths or cases where it is difficult to assess whether or not the death was intentional. In fact, between 2000 - 2003, the annual number of reported deaths from suicide was higher than the number of deaths from transport accidents.
The suicide rate among men is nearly four times higher than the rate among women. However, women are twice as likely to attempt suicide as men. The difference seems to come from the fact that men more often use a more lethal means, such as firearms or hanging to end their lives. Women are more likely to choose a more prolonged method, such as an overdose of pills, where there is a greater chance of an intervention that will save their lives. Also, men are generally more reluctant to seek help on mental health issues than women.
Among adults aged 15 years and older, more than 3% have attempted suicide in their lifetime. More than one in five deaths among adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years is due to suicide. Suicide rates are much higher in some Aboriginal communities.
Despite the fact that almost everyone in Canada has been touched by suicide, there is still a stigma attached to it and to mental illness in general. Stigma is a complex issue involving many factors, including religious practices that do not allow people who commit suicide to be buried in sacred ground. This stigma can be a barrier to someone seeking help for suicidal feelings.
There are four main factors that come into play in suicidal behaviour.
The factors that make an individual vulnerable to suicidal behaviour include:
Almost all people who kill themselves have a mental illness, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. They often abuse drugs or alcohol. Although people who commit suicide are commonly depressed, only a minority of people who are depressed are suicidal.
Previous suicide attempts are common among those who eventually die by suicide.
These are the factors that create a crisis. The most common of these factors are losses, such as job loss, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, divorce or loss of position in society.
Other factors that may cause the crisis include:
What these factors have is common is that they are situations over which the individual feels no sense of control. They cause unbearable psychological pain that the individual feels will never end.
These are the factors that make the individual even more vulnerable to suicidal behaviour. They can include:
These factors help to decrease the risk of suicide. They include:
More suicides could be prevented if people were aware of the warning signs for suicidal behaviour. People considering suicide often show one or more of these signs of distress. They may:
If you or someone close to you shows some of these warning signs for suicide, here are steps you can take to help:
The Government of Canada works to help Canadians maintain and improve their mental health, including preventing suicidal behaviour. Within its jurisdiction, the Government of Canada works to:
In 2007, the federal government provided funding to establish and support The Mental Health Commission of Canada to lead the development of a national mental health strategy.
For more information on suicidal behaviour, contact the following.
Mental Illness Surveillance, Public Health Agency of Canada
The Mental Health Promotion Unit, Public Health Agency of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada
Or contact the local Canadian Mental Health Association in your community, listed in the phone
For additional articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health Web section at:
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Original: March 2009
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2009