Every year approximately 4,000 Canadians die by suicide, averaging nearly 11 people every single day.
Suicide has been an issue that has impacted all genders, races and ethnicities around the world for centuries. However, with the onset of a global pandemic in early 2020, suicide measurements also saw a change.
When lockdown procedures were initiated throughout Ontario and most of Canada in March, many new issues arose for Canadian mental health. We saw increased rates of isolation, lack of access to health care resources and even limited essential toiletries, just to name a few challenges. CMHA National conducted a survey of Ontarians in May 2020 to see how these struggles were impacting the mental health of Canadians and the results, while not necessarily surprising, were concerning.
Seven out of 10 Ontarians believed the province was headed for a “serious mental health crisis” as we moved through the pandemic and nearly eight out of 10 said more mental health supports would be necessary to help society. Concerns regarding risk of suicide presented as well.
In 2019, 2.5 per cent of Canadians reported having had suicidal thoughts within the previous year. By comparison, in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic in May, 6 per cent had recently experienced thoughts or feelings of suicide.
Suicide does not discriminate. While there may be groups with a higher statistical risk of suicide, no group is free of risk. With that said, there are many things people can do to try to create suicide-safer communities. These can include being aware of the warning signs of suicide, indicators that a loved one or colleague may be experiencing thoughts of suicide and knowing how to direct them to appropriate care.
CMHA encourages people to seek out education surrounding suicide intervention, safeTALK, ASIST and Mental Health First Aid. While the pandemic has made the delivery of these courses difficult, there are still some fundamentals of which we can all be aware.
Help is available. If for any reason you or someone you love may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, direct them to care immediately. This could be a family doctor, a mental health professional, a mental health crisis line or even a local emergency room. Directing that person towards care immediately creates the best chance for that person to get help.
Providing care to those that have felt the personal effect of suicide is essential as well. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day where people can recognize all of those in our communities that have been impacted by suicide.
Normally this day would include local community agencies coming together for a public candlelight vigil honouring those who may have died by suicide. As COVID-19 makes an event like that unrealistic, we ask instead that people take the time to light a candle in their window on September 10, honouring those who have felt loss by suicide. It’s a simple gesture to help those working towards healing.
We also encourage anyone who needs to talk to access our Four County Crisis Line. This is a toll-free number available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Please take the time to share this number with friends and family: 1-866-995-9933.
While we may never live in a society complete free of suicide, we can certainly strive to work together to create suicide-safer communities for everyone.