PoV: Make suicide prevention a priority
Anthony Bourdain poses for a photo in Toronto, Ont. on October 31, 2016. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)
Two well-loved celebrities died by suicide last week, according to news reports. Kate Spade, the fashion designer, was found dead in New York City on Tuesday. Then, Friday morning, chef Anthony Bourdain was found dead in a French hotel room.
It’s a reminder of the toll mental illness can take on people – even those with lives many admire, and who have the resources to access good care. In 90 per cent of suicide cases, mental-health issues are present, says the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
The numbers in Canada are truly alarming – and devastatingly sad.
Each year, about 4,000 people in this country die of suicide, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Statistics Canada says it is the ninth leading cause of death. For each suicide death, there are 25 to 30 attempts. Among those between the ages of 10 and 29, it’s the second-highest cause of death. Suicide disproportionately affects men: their mortality rate by suicide is quadruple that of women in Canada.
Mental illness is an affliction that reaches across ethnic and class boundaries, touching people from all walks of life. And, on top of it all, obtaining mental-health care can be out of reach for many. While psychiatry services are covered by OHIP in Ontario, a visit to a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor is not, and the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association estimates 50-minute session costs at between $60 and $150 – out of reach for many. Some private health insurance plans cover some of these services; others do not.
Celebrity suicide is particularly complicated. After Robin Williams died in 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the four months following, suicides – especially among middle-aged men – went up by 10 per cent, and some studies suggest this effect can last for more than six months. Suicide is a devastating tragedy, one that governments should pay close attention to. While the link between mental health and suicide isn’t absolute, it’s strong and troubling.
Here’s a suggestion for Doug Ford, elected Thursday to helm the new Ontario government: Make good quickly on your promise of $3.8 billion over a decade to help battle mental health, addictions and housing. Get a credible plan in place. This was a campaign promise most everyone can support.
Until this or any other government acts, though, there are community supports available. Seek help if you, or someone you love, needs it.
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