We read about the growing trend of children and teenagers being hospitalized for attempted suicide and never consider the possibility of such an incredibly sad and bewildering event occurring within our towns or communities. But it does, every day.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and youth from 10 to 19 years-of-age and for young adults from 20 to 29 years-of-age.
Children and teenagers do not possess the emotional, intelligence quotient to comprehend the finality of death because they have not experienced life and its many glories - but they definitely are not scared of ending it all. They don’t want to die; they just can’t continue living the way they are. It’s the reversal of sentiments.
Indelible pain and sadness eradicates fear and at the end of a brutal day, week or month, when eyes can no longer cry, when skies are no longer blue and nothing but nothing holds any merit; young, innocent hearts weigh the disadvantaged alternatives and inevitably make a choice.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 800,000 people die by suicide every year - more than malaria, breast cancer, war and homicide.
The global suicide rate is predominant in high-income countries. Nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high-income countries, in contrast to low and middle-income countries, where the rate is equal. The only countries where the suicide rate was estimated to be higher in females than in males were Bangladesh, China, Lesotho, Morocco, and Myanmar.
“Despite progress, one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way.”
WHO’s Suicide Prevention states, “While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use) is well established, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis. Further risk factors include experience of loss, loneliness, discrimination, a relationship break-up, financial problems, chronic pain and illness, violence, abuse, and conflict or other humanitarian emergencies.“
“The number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies has increased in the five years since the publication of WHO’s first global report on suicide,” said the World Health Organization in the lead-up to World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, 2019. But the total number of countries with strategies, at just 38, is still far too few and governments need to commit to establishing them.”
For each successful suicide, there are 20 suicidal attempts. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years, for both male and females, after road injury.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among girls from 15 to 19 years of age (after maternal conditions) and the third leading cause of death in boys (after road injury and interpersonal violence).
Suicide rates in African (12.0 per 100,000), European (12.9 per 100,000), and South-East Asian (13.4 per 100,000) regions were higher than the global average (10.5 per 100,000) in 2016.
The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (4.3 per 100,000). The South-East Asia Region had a much higher female age-standardized suicide rate (11.5 per 100,000) compared to the global female average (7.5 per 100,000).
In males, the regions of Africa (16.6 per 100,000), the Americas (14.5 per 100, 000), South-East Asia (15.4 per 100,000), and especially Europe (21.2 per 100,000), all had suicide rates which were higher than the global male average (13.7 per 100,000).
Highest Suicide Rates for 2016 on a Global Scale
India (215,872), China (136,267), United States (49,394), Russian Federation (44,673), Japan (23,684), Nigeria (17,810), Republic of Korea (13,677), Brazil (13,467), France (11,455), Germany (11,145), Ukraine (9,952), Thailand (9,945), Bangladesh (9,544), Indonesia (8,978), Ethiopia (7,323), Vietnam (6,868), Mexico (6,537), South Africa (6,476), Poland (6,174), United Kingdom (5,829), Turkey (5,795) and Italy (4,886).
Canada had 4,525 suicide deaths in 2016.
Lowest Suicide Rates for 2016 on a Global Scale
Barbados (2), Grenada (2), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (2), Tonga (4), Sao Tome and Principe (5), (Bahamas (7), Seychelles Islands (9), Samoa (9) and Maldives (10).
Suicide by Pesticides
The most common methods of suicide are hanging, pesticide self-poisoning and firearms.
The intervention that has the most imminent potential to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning. The high toxicity of many pesticides means that suicide attempts often lead to death, particularly in situations where there is no antidote or where there is no medical facility nearby.
WHO states there is a growing body of international evidence, which indicates that regulations to prohibit the use of highly hazardous pesticides can lead to reductions in national suicide rates.
In Sri Lanka, a series of pesticide bans led to a 70% fall in suicides and it is estimated that 93,000 lives were saved between 1995 and 2015.
In the Republic of Korea, paraquat, an herbicide, accounted for the majority of pesticide suicide deaths in the 2000s. Between 2011 and 2013, the suicide rate was cut by 50% because of the ban on paraquat pesticide.
Child and Teenager Suicides in Canada and the US
Canada and the United States are witnessing a very disturbing trend in children and teenager suicides. JAMA Pediatrics reports that in 2007, 580,000 children (43% of them under the age of twelve) in the US were hospitalized for attempted suicide and in 2015, that number doubled to 1.12 million.
For every suicide death, there are:
- 5 self-inflicted injury hospitalizations
- 25 to 30 attempted suicides
- 7 to 10 people profoundly affected by suicide loss
The Canadian Mental Health Association states, “Mental health problems commonly associated with adults, such as depression, also affect young people. Any one of these factors, or a combination, may become such a source of pain that they seek relief in suicide. Yet people are often reluctant to discuss it. This is partly due to the stigma, guilt or shame that surrounds suicide. People are often uncomfortable discussing it. Unfortunately, this tradition of silence perpetuates harmful myths and attitudes. It can also prevent people from talking openly about the pain they feel or the help they need.”
“Communication is the first essential step in assisting youths at risk of suicide. Learning the facts about suicide can help build a parent's confidence in discussing a difficult subject.”
Warning signs children and teenagers will exhibit:
- Sudden change in behaviour
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Depression; moodiness and hopelessness
- Expressing feelings of worthlessness
- Neglecting their personal appearance
- Change in eating patterns
- Unusual preoccupation with death or dying
- Academic disappointment, conflict with peers, bullying, familial mental illness and conflict, a relationship break-up and a depressing home and/or social and geographical environment
- Giving away valued personal possessions
- Recent attempt or death by suicide by a friend or a family member
- Reading online about recent suicide attempts
- Some teens might communicate direct indications of their intentions
IF you believe your child is in immediate danger of suicide, take their words seriously and call 9-1-1 or The Crisis Service Canada
Talk to someone you trust. Let them know what is going on and how you are feeling. Be brave. Take a deep breath... and call someone today.
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366
Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
Online chat: www.hopeforwellness.ca
Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 [24/7]
For Quebec residents: [24/7] 1-866-APPELLE
WHO: Global Target
“The reduction of suicide mortality has been prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global target and included as an indicator in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the WHO 13th General Programme of Work 2019-2023 and the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030. A comprehensive and coordinated response to suicide prevention is critical to ensure that the tragedy of suicide does not continue to cost lives and affect many millions of people through the loss of loved ones or suicide attempts.”
~, excerpt from WHO: Suicides in the World, Global Health Estimates.
WHO: Key Interventions
Suicides are preventable. Here are a number of Interventions that have proven successful in reducing suicides and suicide attempts:
- restricting access to means, i.e. pesticides, firearms, medications, etc.
- educating media on responsible suicide reporting
- school based interventions
- reducing the harmful use of alcohol by implementing alcohol policies
- implementing programmes and life skills among young people to enable them to cope with life stresses
- early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance abuse disorders who are at risk of suicide.
- early identification, treatment and management of people who suffer from chronic pain and acute emotional distress.
- training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour
- follow-up care and treatment for people who have attempted suicide including provisional community support.
For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:
More about suicide prevention
More about World Suicide Prevention Day
Canadian Children Rights Council – The Canadian Mental Health Association: Reflections on Youth Suicide
Public Health Agency of Canada - The Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention-Progress Report 2018
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Diligencia Investigative Reporting - Mental Health Costs and Burden: Canada and the United States
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