Suicides in Canada

The BBC attempts to tackle the subject of young women committing suicide in Canada, and does so in typically garbled fashion. Let’s take a look.

Suicide amongst young women is on the rise. When it comes to mental health, is gender the elephant in the room?

That’s a good question. Let’s see how the BBC answers it.

Across the country, suicide amongst teen girls and young women is on the rise, while male suicide in the same age group declines, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Thursday.

Health experts have long been concerned with the prevalence of suicide amongst young men. It has been called a “silent epidemic” and for good reason. In 2013, men were three times as likely to kill themselves as women, the latest data shows.

But while men are still much more likely to kill themselves in Canada, young women are starting to catch up. Over the past decade, the suicide rate amongst girls has increased by 38%, while male suicide decreased by 34%.

So while men have been killing themselves at three times the rate of women for decades, it becomes a “gender elephant in the room” if the statistics start to converge slightly? Uh-huh.

The growth has helped level out the gender-gap, with women accounting for 42% of all suicide deaths under 20 in 2013. In 2003, they accounted for just over a quarter.

Hmmm. Some absolute numbers would be good here. Has the number of male suicides stayed the same, or dropped? And why cite data from 2013 in an article published in 2017. Updated suicide data can’t be that hard to get hold of. Some proper journalism would be nice.

A 2012 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada urged researchers to look at why suicide had declined in teen boys since the 1980s, but not in girls. With the government expected to earmark considerable funds for mental health in the next annual budget, due in mid-March, health experts are wondering if Canada needs to rethink the role of gender in suicide prevention.

If men are offing themselves, then fuck them and fuck the patriarchy. If the female suicide stats start to pick up a notch, then health experts suddenly become interested in the role of gender. Somebody wants to get their mitts on those funds, don’t they?

“It definitely warrants some really dedicated attention to why there has been such an increase, particularly when we are seeing children and youth dying by suicide,” says Renee Linklater, director of Aboriginal community engagement at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Ms Linklater says she’s been concerned about growing suicide rates amongst young indigenous women for some time, and limited data suggests they are more vulnerable than non-indigenous girls. Data obtained by the BBC for 2015 shows that indigenous women are more likely to kill themselves than non-indigenous women.

Could that be cultural, do you think? Surely this is more worthy of further research than the role of gender?

Women made up more than half of all indigenous suicides in 2015, compared to the non-aboriginal population where women made up just one quarter of all suicides. Between 2006 and 2015, the number of female suicides climbed 1.5 times faster in indigenous women than it did for non-indigenous women.

So being an indigenous woman sucks big time and it’s getting worse. Is this more related to gender or culture or a combination of both? Either way, I think the BBC has got its headline wrong.

Ms Linklater says we should be paying more attention to this disparity, and the affects that gender and colonialism have on young indigenous women, whom she says experience “double oppression”.

Colonialism? That doesn’t explain the increase, does it? Or is the colonisation of Canada’s First Nation peoples proceeding apace and nobody told me?

Researchers in Canada and abroad are not sure why suicide is rising amongst young women. Some have suggested it could be because women are using deadlier methods. Others say it might be because coroners are reporting female suicide more.

Random bloggers in Paris suggest filling their heads with third-wave feminist garbage leaving them confused, conflicted, and depressed might have something to do with it.

In Canada, women make three to four times as many suicide attempts as men do. Studies indicate that there is a strong link between a history of sexual abuse and suicide attempts.

If this paragraph appeared a little earlier it would imply that indigenous girls are more frequently subject to sexual abuse. “Let’s not put that there,” said the BBC editor.

Yet gender is rarely discussed when we talk about youth suicide, says Ms Oockay, who works in suicide prevention in Woodstock.

That’s because it’s mainly been men who kill themselves, and who gives a fuck about them?

Arielle Sheftall, a researcher at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the United States, says that more research is needed into the role that gender and age play in suicide prevalence.

“Research has shown that the age of puberty is getting younger, and the age of onset for psychiatric disorders especially depression, is highly correlated with the age of puberty,” says Ms Sheftall.

Women go through puberty earlier than men, yet is is men who are killing themselves at far higher rates. Still, let’s give Ms Sheftall some taxpayer funds anyway.

Another culprit might be sexism, research into suicide in developing countries suggests. Dr Suzanne Petroni, the senior director for gender, population and development at the International Center for Research on Women, believes that lack of opportunity and rigid gender roles may be to blame for the high rate of young female suicides in developing countries, like India.

Eh? Have gender roles become more or less rigid in places like India over the past few decades? My guess would be less so. In which case, women are more likely to kill themselves as traditional gender roles are relaxed. Would any feminist like to comment on that?

“Rampant sexism, harmful gender norms, perceptions of girls not being valued as anything other than a wife and a mother, very likely is contributing to mental-health problems and suicide,” she told the BBC.

Maybe, but what this has to do with ultra-liberal Canada is anyone’s guess.

These harmful stereotypes, or “visions of what they should be, but aren’t”, have only been amplified by the spread of social media around the globe, Dr Petroni says.

It’s not every day you hear a “senior director for gender, population and development at the International Center for Research on Women” parroting the lines of ultra-conservatives regarding the dangers of exposing “traditional” women to the depravities of the West.

Although Woodstock is far from the developing world, this explanation rings true to Ms Ookcay, who teaches suicide prevention.

“Our youth live in a world that the pressure and stress is way different than it ever has been. I see high levels of perfectionism and the need to be on it all the time, and be the best at everything you do,” she told the BBC.

So Millenials in Ontario are just as oppressed as peasant women in Burkina Faso, only differently. Right.

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12 thoughts on “Suicides in Canada

  1. The first thing to establish is who it is that categorises a death as suicide.

    My pal The Retired Epidemiologist once came across an apparent anomaly in suicide rates in Europe: Italy was remarkably low. Investigation revealed that three different groups could diagnose on cause of death in Italy: doctors, or nurses, or the families of the deceased. I dare say that Canada is more rational, but why guess?

    Anyway, what else? How about distribution by race (or some euphemism for that)? By province? By age group? By social class? …… Why just by sex?

  2. Italy being low might be due to roman catholics not getting into heaven if they suicide, just a little bit of last minute help with the entrance visa maybe.

  3. Anyway, what else? How about distribution by race

    That’s a good point: for all the talk about us all being equal under the skin, blacks tend not to commit suicide as readily as their white counterparts.

  4. I was living in Jakarta during the riots and the devastation was widespread with whole stratus being relegated to poverty overnight and massive property and wealth loss. I was quite impressed with the locals resilience in picking themselves up and restarting all over again in the aftermath. If this had happened in any western city then I think the suicide and depression rates would have been through the roof. The Asians look on mental breakdowns differently and they quite often treat it as a type of personal growth, a crisis that leads to a new and better level.

  5. Excellent again – yes some absolute figures would be good on this, to know what we’re actually comparing.

  6. What also has not been mentioned is the consequences of the decades -long welfare state that has been created to support First Nation communities. This policy has had cross party support & was untouchable. Reservations & tribal structures have been maintained. Results include high unemployment, massive substance abuse & all that follows.Having visited Manitoba many times since the mid 80’s i have seen first hand this slow sad destruction of a unique people. A friend working in the Winnipeg Health care sector said once that Canada had done a more effective job of destruction than the US Calvary in the 19th C. The Inuit are if anything even in a worse position as the effects are magnified by the often remote settlements & harsh environment .The policy was intended to contrast Canada & US. As always the poorest & weakest ( ie women & children) pay the price.

  7. I think the more pertinent question is, why don’t more Canadians commit suicide every year, given they have 9 months of winter each year?

    The societal-mental health issues that arise from their climate are devastating, as their recent election and subsequent choice of Prime Minister illustrates.

  8. I think the more pertinent question is, why don’t more Canadians commit suicide every year, given they have 9 months of winter each year?

    Indeed. The place, from what I can tell, is mind-numbingly boring* and the people don’t drink themselves into oblivion like the Scandos, Finns, and Russians do. It is indeed a mystery.

    *As the Americans say: Canada is all right, but not for the whole weekend.

  9. A data point of sorts: China used to be anamolous in that women outnumbered men in suicides – a heavily rural population meant easy access to pesticides. However, subsequent economic growth leading to factory employment for many rural women has apparently since sufficiently alleviated the patriarchy to see a precipitous decline in such cases.

  10. Here is the sensible version (for the UK):
    “While the increase in the suicide rate this year is a result of an increase in female suicides, males still account for three quarters of all suicides. There has also been a continued increase in suicides for males under the age of 30, however, these remain lower than the peak seen in the late 1990’s and remains significantly lower than the suicide rate for middle-aged males despite falls in recent years.”

    Jodie Withers, Health Analysis and Life Events, Office for National Statistics

  11. Another data point: the constant banging on about indigenous women is a direct result of a manufactured “missing and murdered indigenous women” crisis in Canada. When one looked at the statistics, it became apparent that almost all the indigenous women were murdered by indigenous men, and at rates about parity for their representation in the overall population. The figures were conflated by all the teenage girls fleeing the reservations for the Big City being lumped into the “missing” column.

    TL;DR: having discovered that using indigenous women as a mascot worked for the last shakedown, they’re trying it again.

    Also, Canada really is mind-numbingly boring. We have some nice geographical features, though.

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