Suicide: A life and death problem with no easy solution

    Monday, September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day

    TORONTO, Sept. 6 /CNW/ - Suicide is literally a matter of life and death,
and yet it remains a taboo subject that is rarely talked about. Suicide
Prevention Day was created to raise awareness, encourage discussion and
ultimately prevent more of the estimated 4,000 suicide deaths a year that take
place in Canada.
    The theme this year is Suicide Prevention Across the Life Span,
emphasizing that suicidality can affect anyone at any age. Research has shown
that these days suicide rates peak dramatically in males in the 19 to 34 year
old age group, but remain a concern for those over the age of 65. In women the
danger period is during middle age. However, no age-group is exempt in either
    Whereas suicide attempts, particularly in adolescence and early
adulthood, are more prevalent in women, men are at higher risk of suicide than
their female contemporaries and comprise three-quarters of suicide deaths in
Canada. As with younger ages, mental illness, namely depression, is the cause
of most suicides in older people.
    Who are these people who die by suicide? Nearly 90 percent are
individuals with a mental disorder of some kind. Having schizophrenia, for
instance, is associated with a high rate of suicide. One of the more tragic
facets of suicide is that some 83 percent of individuals have had contact with
a medical practitioner within the year prior to succeeding in ending their own
lives; more than 60 percent have had contact within the month.
    "All our evidence points to the fact that no magic cure can take the
place of excellent medical care that takes account of the particular needs of
the suicidal patient," says Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky, Head of the High Risk
Consultation Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and
an internationally recognized author on suicide.
    The good news is that Canadian statistics indicate that in recent years,
suicide rates overall, including among youth, have decreased. Yet, as a
preventable cause of death, it is a topic that should be addressed in schools,
workplaces and by families. While psychotherapy and medications are effective
in the treatment of mental illness contributing to youth suicide, prevention
-- such as promoting help-seeking behaviour and training teachers -- have also
shown promise.
    There is a need to diminish the stigmatization of depression and
suicidality, particularly among men, because it acts as a barrier to
help-seeking and puts the male gender more at risk for suicide.
    With so many of those who attempt suicide facing major mental illness,
the need to decrease the myths and isolating stigma still associated with
these illnesses is crucial, according to Dr. David Goldbloom, CAMH's Senior
Medical Advisor, Education and Public Affairs. "Most people who die by suicide
succumb after losing a courageous battle with depression. But we don't hear
those stories. If you're run over by a bus, everyone is certainly sympathetic.
But if you throw yourself in front of a bus ...."
    Dr. Goldbloom echoes Dr. Sakinofsky's emphasis on the importance of
clinical care for suicidal patients. "Fear of mental illness still comes from
the myth many people have that it's untreatable. Available treatments for
depression, for example, probably have better outcomes than those for high
blood pressure."
    Losing someone to suicide is more common than expected. One survey showed
that 7% of respondents had experienced a loss due to suicide during the
previous year.
    "The taboo surrounding suicide can complicate bereavement," according to
Dr. Sakinofsky. "Individuals may experience unique reactions such as shame,
self-blame, and a perpetual search for meaning. Beginning this Suicide
Prevention Day, we as a society must start talking about suicide more openly."
    Former Burlington mayor, Walter Mulkewich, who lost his wife to suicide
in 1998, has made a point of speaking out. "My wife's death has had a
life-changing impact on myself, our children and grandchildren, as well as
other family and friends," he said. As a member of the Halton Suicide
Prevention Coalition, Walter currently helps other survivors of suicide cope
with the loss of their loved ones. He is sure that "Increasing communication
and understanding about suicide can save lives."

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading
addiction and mental health teaching hospital. Integrating clinical care,
scientific research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH
transforms the lives of people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews please contact Michael
Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890