Suicide in Canada

Today in Canada approximately 11 people will end their lives by suicide. In addition, approximately 210 others will attempt to end their lives by suicide today.  For each death by suicide. It has been estimated that the lives of 7-10 bereaved ‘Survivors” are profoundly affected. This means that today in Canada 77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide. To be certain, suicide is a critical public health issue in Canada. In Canada suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death, with rates increasing over the past 60 years. In 2012, suicide is ranked as the 9th leading cause of death in Canada. According to Statistics Canada there were 3,926 suicides in the year 2012. Males were three times more likely to die by suicide than females. This much higher rate of suicide for men compared to women has been a trend consistent over time in Canada. Although men are more likely to die by suicide, females are 3-4 times more likely to attempt to end their lives. In addition, women are hospitalized 1.5 times more often than males for suicide related behaviors. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that females tend to use less immediately lethal methods. Based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.7% of Canadians have thought about suicide and 3.5% have attempted suicide in their lifetime.

Suicide in Canada by Province and Territory

In 2005, 412 people died by suicide in Alberta (age-standardized rate of 12.2 per 100,000population). Looking at age-standardized rates, males died by suicide more often than females (18.0 vs. 6.3 per 100,000).
According to Statistics Canada from 2005, suicide deaths occur at an age-standardized rate of 8.8 per 100,000 population in this province; a total of 412 deaths in 2005. The rate in males is higher (13.2 per 100,000) compared to females (4.6 per 100,000).
In Manitoba, 166 people died by suicide in 2005. This figure represents an agestandardized rate of14.4 per 100,000 population, with the rate nearly 4 times higher in males than in females (22.8 vs 6.0 per 100,000).
In 2005, 1115 people died by suicide in Ontario at an age-standardized rate of 8.3 per 100,000population; the lowest provincial/territorial rate in Canada. Suicide was more frequent in males than females, with rates of 12.7 per 100,000 and 4.1 per 100,000, respectively.
Statistics Canada noted that 1237 individuals died by suicide in Quebec in 2005. Death by suicide occurred at an age-standardized rate of 15.1 per 100,000 individuals in this province, with the rate being higher in males than females (23.8 vs 6.6 per 100,000 population).
One hundred and fifteen people died by suicide in 2005 in Saskatchewan at an agestandardized rate of 11.5 per 100,000 population. Suicide death was more common in males (17.1 per 100,000) than females (6.0 per 100,000) after adjusting for age.
One hundred and one persons died by suicide in New Brunswick in 2005, denoting an age-standardized rate of 12.6 per 100,000 persons. Males died by suicide at four times the rate in females (20.2 vs 5.2 per 100,000 population).
According to national suicide statistics, 55 persons died by suicide in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) in 2005. The age-standardized suicide rate in this province that year was 9.7 per 100,000 population, with the rate in males (15.9 per 100,000) being over four times the rate in females (3.7 per 100,000).
In Nova Scotia in 2005, 86 persons died by suicide at an age-standardized rate of 8.9 per 100,000 population. The rate in males (16.2 per 100,000 population) was 9 times higher than the rate in females (1.8 per 100,000 population) in this province.
Four males died by suicide in the Northwest Territories in 2005. No females died by suicide that year. The age standardized rate was 8.8 per 100,000 across both sexes, and for males it was 17.2 per 100,000.
In 2005, 16 males and 4 females died by suicide in Nunavut. The age-standardized mortality rate in Nunavut is the highest in Canada at 51.2 per 100,000 population; a rate that is 3-6 times higher than the rate in other provinces/territories. The rate in males is over four and a half times the rate in females, at 83.2 per 100,000 population and 17.9 per 100,000, respectively.
Thirteen people died by suicide in 2005 on Prince Edward Island, giving an age standardized death rate of 10.8 per 100,000 persons. Male suicides occurred at a much higher rate than female suicides, at 19.8 and 2.1 per 100,000 population, respectively.
In 2005, five people in The Yukon died by suicide; four males and one female at an agestandardized rate of 12.3 per 100,000 population.

Suicide Around the World

  • Every year, almost one million people die from suicide; a “global” mortality rate of16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15 – 44 years.  Suicide accounts for more loss of life in the world than the total number of deaths from war, acts of terrorism and homicide combined
  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide.
  • Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998, and 2.4% in countries with market and former socialist economies in 2020.
  • Although traditionally suicide rates have been highest among the male elderly, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.
  • Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide in Europe and North America; however, in Asian countries impulsiveness plays an important role. Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved.

15 September 2009 — A recent WHO study shows that young people are often at risk, and that suicide is the second largest cause of mortality in the 10-24 age group. However, there are different risk factors in different cultures. Source: World Health Organization – Suicide Prevention Rate of suicide In 2001, the crude rate of suicide (not standardized for age) in Canada was 11.9 per 100,000 population.3,4 The suicide rate for males was 18.6 per 100,000 population and 5.2 per 100,000 population for females Contrary to common belief, suicide rates are not highest among adolescents.  During the period 1997-2001, the highest rates occurred among

Gender Age Rate per 1000,00
Combined 49-50 18.5
Males 40-44 28.7
Females 45-49 9.3

See also: Australia Senate Report “the Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia

How Can Suicide Be Prevented

The majority of suicides can be prevented.  There are a number of measures that can be taken at community and national levels to reduce the risk, including:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, medication, guns);
  • treating people with mental disorders (particularly those with depression, alcoholism, and schizophrenia);
  • providing follow-up to people who have made suicide attempts;
  • responsible media reporting;
  • training primary health care workers;
  • mental health promotion.

At a more personal level, it is important to know that only a small number of suicides happen without warning. Most people who die by suicide give definite warnings of their intentions. Therefore, all threats of self-harm should be taken seriously. In addition, a majority of people who attempt suicide are ambivalent and not entirely intent on dying. Many suicides occur in a period of improvement when the person has the energy and the will to turn despairing thoughts into destructive action. However, a once-suicidal person is not necessarily always at risk: suicidal thoughts may return but they are not permanent and in some people they may never return. Source: World Health Organziation (WHO) How can suicide be prevented?

How to be Helpful When Someone is Suicidal

  • Take all threats or attempts seriously
  • Be aware and learn warning signs of suicide
  • Be direct and ask if the person is thinking of suicide.  If the answer is yes, ask if the person has a plan and what the time line is.
  • Be non-judgmental and empathic
  • Do not minimize the feelings expressed by the person
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy …seek out the support of appropriate professionals
  • Ask if there is anything you can do
  • Draw on resources in the person’s network
  • Do not use clichés or try to debate with the person
  • In an acute crisis take the person to an emergency room or walk in clinic or call a mobile crisis service if one is available
  • Do not leave them alone until help is provided
  • Remove any obvious means e.g. firearms, drugs or sharp objects) from the immediate vicinity

Source: International Association of Suicide Prevention


American Association of Suicidology Canadian Mental Health Association Health Canada Suicide Education and Information Centre Statistics Canada World Health Organization International Association of Suicide Prevention www.iasp.into Statistics Canada. (2002).  Leading causes of death at different ages, Canada, 1999.  Shelf tables. Ottawa, ON: Author. Langlois, S., & Morrison, P. (2002).  Suicide deaths and suicide attempts.  Health Reports, 13 (2), 9-22. Statistics Canada. Causes of death, shelf tables. [1997-2001]. Ottawa, ON: Author. 3,4Sstatistics Canada. (2003).  Annual demographic statistics 2002. Ottawa, ON: Author. 3,4