Time to talk about suicide on P.E.I.: Report

Teresa Wright
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Prince Edward Island Health Minister Doug Currie

157 Islanders took their own lives between Jan. 1, 2002 and Dec. 31, 2011

Prince Edward Island should begin a discussion about where gaps exist to determine if a suicide prevention strategy is needed, says a new suicide trends report released Thursday.

The report looks at suicide data in P.E.I. between 2002 and 2011 and compared this to Canadian trends.

In total, 157 Islanders took their own lives between Jan. 1, 2002 and Dec. 31, 2011 a rate that is similar to the Canadian and Atlantic Canadian rate.

When examining the risk factors, it was determined males were significantly more likely to die from suicide than females and that middle-aged Islanders between the ages of 40-59 were the most likely victims.

Mental illness was flagged as the most important risk factor, with 90 per cent of suicide victims having some form of mental illness or addiction disorder.

Depression was found to be the most common mental illness cited in relation to P.E.I. suicides.

Alcohol and drug use was common in Islanders who died by suicide, the report found.

Health Minister Doug Currie says this data will be used as part of a large-scale review being done by the Dr. Rhonda Matters, the province’s new chief mental health and addictions officer.

“The fundamental issue that we’ve heard time after time is about access to timely services,” Currie said.

“The work that (Matters) is undertaking will encompass all government departments and look at ways we can be more efficient and look at more streamlined process to make sure that we’re there in a timely manner to support Islanders who need that service in time of crisis.”

The suicide trend report was compiled as a result of a resolution passed in September 2011 during the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Medical Society.

It was suggested at the time P.E.I.’s suicide rate was increasing and required a review so the province could develop a prevention strategy.

NDP Leader Mike Redmond has recently been raising this as a concern, saying he’s been hearing anecdotally that more Islanders tragically ended their lives in 2013.

“There’s been enough public outcry to show that the numbers are quite a bit higher this year,” Redmond said.

“It’s certainly time the government did more than petition another study on the issue. We don’t need another study, we need a government that actually has the courage to step up and do the right thing and provided beds, provide resources and physicians to help deal with a statistic that is a blight on the conscience of P.E.I.”

The province’s chief coroner Dr. Charles Trainor told The Guardian Thursday the number of Islanders who committed suicide in P.E.I. in 2013 was 16, but didn’t have stats in front of him to compare this with previous years.

Currie said he does not believe there has been a spike in suicide rates, but said it is always an issue of concern.

“Anytime we lose the life of an individual through suicide, we’re always very concerned,” he said.

“Anything that we do moving forward is going to be about suicide prevention. Our mandate is trying to look at how to bring those rates down… if we can prevent and save one youth from taking their life, we’ve been successful.”

In P.E.I. the primary methods used to complete suicide were significantly different between men and women, according to the suicide trends report.

Men used more violent methods including hanging, strangulation and firearms.

Women most commonly chose overdose or hanging. Since men use more lethal methods to attempt suicide, they have a higher overall completion rate.

The vast majority had at least one encounter with the P.E.I. health care system before their death, and some had many more.

The report also noted actual suicide numbers reflect only a small portion of total suicidal behavior in P.E.I.

That’s because some individuals are hospitalized, treated by first responders or do not seek treatment as a result of suicidal behavior that did not result in death.

In total, 58.6 per cent of Islanders who died of suicide had no known previous attempts, did not disclose their intent to die by suicide and did not leave a suicide note.

In Prince Edward Island, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2009 based on data provided by vital statistics.

FACT BOX

Many risk factors have been described for suicide including:

•Males are more likely to die by suicide than females

•Middle age is the most common in Canada

•Mental health disorders, in particular depression

•People who are not in a current relationship

•Veterinarians, pharmacists, dentists, farmers and doctors

•Unemployed

•Remote communities

•Immigrants

•Chronic physical illness

•Substance Use

•Aboriginal

•Sexuality (i.e. homosexual, transgender etc.)

Source: World Health Organization

Organizations: Matters, P.E.I. Medical Society, World Health Organization

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Recent comments

  • High statistics
    January 27, 2014 - 16:02

    Probly be a lot more people wanting to end their life with all the EI changes . People waiting 8 weeks or longer . Disgraceful . it's not like there are a lot of jobs in the winter time .These people have children and have to heat their homes if a person gets desparate and hopeless and in pei either committ suicide , or starve or freeze to death . It's situational how is an appointment with a psychiatrist gonna help that when you can't even afford a medication or the gas , bus , taxi to even get to one if you live any distance away . It pretty depressing when you get an eviction notice can't provide for your family and some it is hard to recover financially even from EI payments which are 50 percent of gross pay at min wage that is 5.25 an hour . From 10.50

  • Should have been doing all along
    January 25, 2014 - 08:57

    It not new you just hear more of it . It has to not only do with those affected addiction , mental health . There are many that are high functioning . A lot of the problem is small town , stigma therefore this group is less able to be hired by an employer because of performance . They suffer financially , socially and educationally . Employers discriminative in hiring are not willing to as they say create a hardship for them self . There needs to be programs where individuals can overcome these things . How many employers are knowledgable it not worth there time . As far as I see a lot of time of sweeping these people that need help under the carpet and just hope they go away because of the drain on the system . So it's hard to understand why all the talk now ? It is only now showing the cause and effect of people ending their life . And now government wants to do something about it because of public pressure . The system doesn't work because those who make the resources do not have an understanding of the societal culture the way it is . Addicted youth or young adults their families pretty much have to kick them out of the family home as a tough love so that then some resources can be acessed as long as a 17 or 18 year old stays at home no resources can be acessed . when the mandate says "keep the families together " . If you have an intellectually challenged child or addicted youth help stops at 17 . If families had some supports to help assist to work together . Stay together but they don't . I doubt if anyone from government sector realized the conditions these people have to live in and the caught in a downward spiral of hopelessness and don't know how to get out . What they need etc because all along homelessness etc if you don't see it you don't think about it . How can some one even get a job being on EI when they maybe have 175 dollars for food, laundry trasportation to clothing get there , to them why bother . They know they only a matter of time before they lose the job etc . So supports and stigma . Everyone has they right to work etc lots of these people they not given a chance by society themself . May be a wage subsided for some employers incentive to hire people that may be able to work etc . Or an addict in recovery . It hard for an employers to hire those that have engaged in criminal activity or drug addictions . Some will never change those patterns of there life but for those that want to change their life and get help there isn't much hope .

  • Left out
    January 24, 2014 - 13:45

    You forgot on your list , veterans , military , police , nurses , high rate of depression . Check statistics with EAP employee assistance program see how many of you own employees are accessing services . But because of the stigma they not on the list for risk . These people are human too and often forgotten suffer in silence . They don't often ask for help . Because they are the helpers .

  • Melissa Halliday
    January 24, 2014 - 13:03

    The desperation of people is showing in suicide statistics. I know what it's like to feel worthless and hopeless because of unemployment. It's an uphill battle for anyone suffering from mental illness, and the stigma is still here unfortunately. Studies and task forces are fine for statistics, but we need to provide support for people now!

  • Melissa Halliday
    January 24, 2014 - 13:00

    The desperation of people is showing in suicide statistics. I know what it's like to feel worthless and hopeless because of unemployment. It's an uphill battle for anyone suffering from mental illness, and the stigma is still here unfortunately. Studies and task forces are fine for statistics, but we need to provide support for people now!

  • fed up
    January 24, 2014 - 12:01

    Maybe if people werent forced to wait months on end for an appointment with ANY mental health program/'professional' and if they werent forced to wait months to get any sort of treatment for addictions, & then only recieve basic minimal help, maybe then, there would be a decline in the numbers of not only suicide, but break &enters, thefts, etc! I personally know someone that has been waiting to see a therapist at the richmond centre since SPETEMBER2013!! & keeps getting the same reply back "when we have a time slot to fit you in we will" what sort of "help" is that?! I wonder how long that person would be forced to wait if they were suicidal?! PATHETIC PEI HEALTH SYSTEM!

  • Lookat2013Numbers
    January 24, 2014 - 11:18

    I think if someone were to take a look at the 2013 numbers, they would tell a different story. I can think of at least four situations where the person who committed suicide was not middle-aged but was very young.

  • Islander
    January 24, 2014 - 08:58

    In my previous post I mentioned when Doug Currie was called for help by another that knew him that the help did come available and what I wanted to say is at least when contacted Doug Currie did listen and because he listened on that day he does not realize he saved a young persons life who is going on with life now happy and able to cope and that is what he needs to get across to those who are in the health care profession that deal with people who find life sometimes just to hard of a walk.

  • Islander
    January 24, 2014 - 08:33

    Suicide is not going to stop until health care workers clearly listen to a person who comes for help. I speak from experience with a family member who was taken for help over and over again and was not been heard or listened to they were made to feel it was wrong to be depressed that they could overcome it if they just tried. Well to make a long story short this person went on like this for over a year with family trying everything we could but at the end had to contact a person we knew to get some wheels moving who could get this person into the hospital for the help they needed so bad to be able to cope but was told they would have to wait but when we contacted this person who could make a difference who contacted Doug Currie a bed was there the bed that was unavailable only hours before with weeks of a waiting list for this poor struggling soul. They got the help finally that they needed and it was not from drugs or alcohol just a two heavy a load for this person to carry that was having a lot of pain in their life and needed help to be able to go on. I know for a fact that if we had not got the help so desperately needed that day this person who is going on today happy and healthy would not be here today as after they told us it was the last day for them if they had not got help that day as they were tired of been used like they were worthless and could do it if they tried by the professional people that they went to for help . So what it all boils down to is who you know and who you don't because this person got the help they needed so much when the big shots made the move to have this person get the help which we are so grateful for but not everyone has that someone they could call and the end result for those is suicide. My question is why was this person not treated in the same manner when they came for help a year previous as they were treated when the big wigs stepped in? I wish that these ones who make this their profession in life one just close their lips and open their ears and really listen to these poor struggling people who come for help treat them like they would their own parent or child and I think it would go a long way in helping those who reach out their hand when their lives become impossible to live and need that kind and caring person who could help more if they tried and did what they are getting paid to do.

  • Remèdes Douloureux
    January 24, 2014 - 07:01

    The Report found alcohol and drug use was common in Islanders who died by suicide yet, by my loose calculations, those who died by their own hands represent well less than .1% of those who consume alcohol and drugs. Also, given the statistical correlation between professions and suicides, one has to ask about the role of financial / material stability. Clearly, we have to ask deeper questions about what is actually making some Islander's lives so darn . . . well, unlivable. The Report already has raised interesting questions, that's a positive step in the right direction. However, for effective and comprehensive intervention we need more study on this issue AND we need immediate action. This is far from easy and it may take a lot of political courage to handle the answers and deliver on the solutions. Good on this government to travel down that road; let's just hope they don't just build a "Plan B".

    • Enough Already
      January 24, 2014 - 08:16

      Enough with the Plan B stuff. I am not a fan of it either but it is built. It is too late to stop it. Take the Stop Plan B stickers off your vehicles. I read your post thinking this is a reasonable assessment of the suicide issue and then back to more of the same old Plan B rhetoric. It just undermines the credibility of the first part of your post.

    • No Where Near Enough Already
      January 24, 2014 - 11:16

      Interestingly, I'm not sure I agree (or even understand) Remèdes comment. However, I do think that Plan B will remain an important symbol for a very long time. It symbolizes a willful misinterpretation of statistics, facts and public / political priorities. In this, I too hope that The Report and this important issue isn't transformed in another planb. That much I do understand!

    • Enough Already
      January 24, 2014 - 14:43

      To No where Near Enough Already. Of course you understand Remedes. You ARE Remedes. If you would rather blather on about Plan B than discuss Suicide go ahead, knock yourself out.

    • Getting on the right road.
      January 24, 2014 - 15:44

      The one benefit of anonymity is that "Who" says what doesn't matter. What matters is the strength of the opinion. Plan B may well be a powerful symbol of political incompetence, but suicide isn't. Suicide is tragic and very real. The point is, let's hope governments put our knowledge, energy and money into the right projects. Right?

  • Gerard Deveau
    January 24, 2014 - 06:41

    The Prince Edward Island Government needs to put more money into mental health. People need to "wake up" and realize we all have mental health issues and we all deal with them in different way. We all have time whenever we were stressed, depression and anxiety. The majority of us have good mental health well-being, but for the few that don't need that extra support to help them through their daily routine be it managing their budget so bills are paid, shopping, social integration, etc..... One suicide is one to many and if you "the government " put funding in place where support can be accessed and issues are addressed. "Health Minister Doug Currie says this data will be used as part of a large-scale review being done by the Dr. Rhonda Matters, the province’s new chief mental health and addictions officer. “The fundamental issue that we’ve heard time after time is about access to timely services,” Currie said." Having meeting after meeting and report after report is not helping the issue only hindering it. You need to grab the bull by the horns, put "money" yes taxpayers money on the table and tackle this issue or it will continually get worst.

  • Since when
    January 24, 2014 - 06:00

    It shouldn't be rocket science it's poverty . Lack of social programs , EI , no jobs . Ceiling limits say on a single person is what 600.00 . Rents for a bachelor or room and board , shared kitchen and bath start at 500. I don't think that a lot of disabilities are identified properly , disability and support does to cover adults ? Youth ? Do social work try to acesss these for their clients ? There was a show on cbc not long ago about a Dr that works with homeless people . He gets helps them access things that these people never knew were available to them . Once they poverty improves they improve there mental health . Education . And safe place to live .

  • Since when
    January 24, 2014 - 05:59

    It shouldn't be rocket science it's poverty . Lack of social programs , EI , no jobs . Ceiling limits say on a single person is what 600.00 . Rents for a bachelor or room and board , shared kitchen and bath start at 500. I don't think that a lot of disabilities are identified properly , disability and support does to cover adults ? Youth ? Do social work try to acesss these for their clients ? There was a show on cbc not long ago about a Dr that works with homeless people . He gets helps them access things that these people never knew were available to them . Once they poverty improves they improve there mental health . Education . And safe place to live .