Canada facing suicide crisis

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When we hear about suicide prevention, we often assume it’s young people most at risk. But Canada is facing an aspect of the grey tsunami it has largely ignored: older men are fast becoming an at-risk group.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2016 (2189 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When we hear about suicide prevention, we often assume it’s young people most at risk. But Canada is facing an aspect of the grey tsunami it has largely ignored: older men are fast becoming an at-risk group.

In this country, men make up nearly 75 per cent of suicide decedents. Think about that for a moment.

While women have a higher rate of attempting suicide, suicide attempts by men are more often deadly. According to Statistics Canada, this is because women tend to choose less certainly fatal methods, such as poisoning, in which death can be prevented through medical intervention, whereas men are more likely to use more violent methods such as hanging or firearms.

CHARLES BLOOM ILLUSTRATION

News coverage in recent months has focused on the suicide epidemic in communities such as Attawapiskat, a First Nation in northern Ontario that declared a state of emergency following 11 deaths by suicide. The northern Manitoba community of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) declared a similar state of emergency in March.

Indeed, data from Health Canada show the suicide rate is up to five times higher for indigenous men than non-indigenous men (126 deaths per 100,000 people, as opposed to 24 deaths). It’s up to seven times higher for indigenous women than non-indigenous women (35 deaths per 100,000 people, as opposed to five deaths).

So why is it about to become a bigger problem across the country? Because people are getting older.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention identifies men as an at-risk group with increased risk of death by suicide in the 40- to 50-year-old age range; a study by the B.C. Medical Journal found the risk peaked around 50 years of age, then decreased, but increased again in men nearing 80 years of age. That’s where the baby boomers are headed.

It’s not a new phenomenon, either. According to Statistics Canada, one of the top 10 causes of death in males in 2012 was suicide (at 2.4 per cent of deaths, it’s number seven). Suicide isn’t in the top 10 for women, and for both men and women, cancer and heart disease occupy the top two spots.

One of the important ways to prevent suicide is through social support. Without it, people may feel they have no one to turn to.

Some psychologists would suggest men are not socialized to seek support, and as they age and their close friends start dying, they are unable to form new bonds and make new friends.

Men of a certain age have been told for a long time to keep a stiff upper lip, not to reach out — but if we don’t step forward and help them do just that, it could be fatal.

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