Prince Edward Island Health Minister Doug Currie
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
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.
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
•Chronic physical illness
•Sexuality (i.e. homosexual, transgender etc.)
Source: World Health Organization