Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and, according to World Health Organization, some 800,000 people die by suicide every year. There are also many more who attempt suicide but are unsuccessful.
Here are some facts:
- More people in Canada die annually from suicide than from murder.
- In Canada, 2,700 males die by suicide each year.
- Suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of male death in Canada in 2007.
- In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 to 44, costing $209 million in 2010.
- In Northern Health, suicide is the second leading cause of injury-related death.
- There were 46 deaths, 263 hospitalizations, 323 ER visits and 55 people left disabled from suicide and self-harm in 2010 in northern B.C.
- For males in B.C. aged 15-65, the rates were 3-4 times higher than death rates for females.
- Men tend to report depression less often but also tend to engage more lethal methods for suicide.
- Some Aboriginal communities have higher rates of suicide.
By the numbers, male suicide is not far behind prostate cancer in terms of death rates in Canada, but it is often a hidden thing and an uncomfortable topic to discuss publicly. Many people who lose family members to suicide are reluctant to acknowledge it because of the stigma. Someone else is always left behind to bear the costs of male suicide and these are largely costs that do not show up in the statistics.
There are many reasons that men decide that they have no other road out than to kill themselves. Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can leave an individual looking inward and feeling isolated. They can then easily believe that there is no point to life. Depression distorts thinking and makes the irrational seem plausible.
The difficulty with male depression is that the symptoms are not what we expect and are easy to overlook. Anger, irritability and feelings of being overwhelmed can make talking with someone about these feelings difficult. At the same time, if someone is becoming increasingly irritable about lots of seemingly small things, then maybe depression should spring to mind.
It is time to open the windows and let in some fresh air. We need to build the support for men to feel safe in asking for help. Talking is a great place to start and the more we talk about it, the less difficult it will become. Talking to a person close to you about suicide may be very difficult, but it’s an important step in helping your loved one get the support he needs.
If you have ever thought about hurting yourself or someone else or have been feeling overwhelmed, irritable and not yourself, talk to someone – call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE). Getting help is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your family!
About Jim Coyle
Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.