Suicide in Canada

Suicide in Canada

ANTOON A. LEENAARS
SUSANNE WENCKSTERN
ISAAC SAKINOFSKY
RONALD J. DYCK
MICHAEL J. KRAL
ROGER C. BLAND
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 624
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680258
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  • Book Info
    Suicide in Canada
    Book Description:

    Compiled by Canada?s leading experts on suicide, this collection provides long-awaited information that focuses specifically on Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8025-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    My name is Lucien Taparti. This is a recording of my words from my own experience. There are a lot of problems that come from the land, and when you get older you tend to get more problems. But when I was younger, there seemed to be hardly any problems, because we were living in a small settlement with only a few iglus [houses]. Now I am sixty-six years old. I was born in 1926 in Wager Bay. Some solutions to the problems can arise easily, but some are hard to understand. So if no one understands me, I can...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  5. Part I: History

    • 1 History: Vignettes of the Development in Suicide Prevention
      (pp. 3-34)
      ANTOON A. LEENAARS, MENNO BOLDT, EDWARD A. CONNORS, PATRICIA HARNISCH, GERRY G. HARRINGTON, KAREN G. KIDDEY, MARCIA B. KRAWLL, KAREN LETOFSKY, BERND OSBORG, RICHARD F. RAMSAY, ISAAC SAKINOFSKY and GORDON WINCH

      History, if viewed as more than a catalogue of past events, could produce a meaningful perspective on a wide array of fields of study. This is as true about suicidology as about any other field.

      Undoubtedly, some readers will question whether historical study can possibly be useful. How could a history of suicidology, especially in one country (e.g., Canada), be a legitimate source of knowledge? Is it not merely anecdotal fact? Are not significant events only occurring today? Is it not the future that will provide the best perspective? However, another perspective (see Kuhn, 1962; Leenaars and Diekstra, 1995) would...

  6. Part II: Epidemiology and the Canadian Scene

    • 2 The Epidemiology of Suicide in Canada
      (pp. 37-66)
      ISAAC SAKINOFSKY

      This chapter reviews the epidemiology of suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour in Canada. Following an overall perspective of the field, it discusses the reasons why suicide has increased especially in young persons, cohort and longitudinal studies of suicide, methods of committing suicide, and some of the population groups who are at particular risk for suicide.

      Suicide data for Canada go back to 1924, but those statistics are incomplete. Data for Canada as a whole start only from 1956. Quebec’s figures were included after 1925, Newfoundland’s from 1949, and the Yukon’s and Northwest Territories’ statistics since 1956 (National Task Force, 1994)....

    • 3 Epidemiology of Suicide, Parasuicide, and Suicidal Ideation in Quebec
      (pp. 67-84)
      RICHARD BOYER, GILLES LÉGARÉ, DANIELLE ST-LAURENT and MICHEL PRÉVILLE

      This chapter lays out recent data on the incidence of suicide in Quebec and the major findings from a study of suicidal ideation and parasuicide¹ undertaken within the framework of the Quebec Health Survey (QHS). The QHS was conducted first in the general population of Quebec in 1987 and again in 1992–3 with a new sample. The native populations of Quebec, however, were excluded from these for reasons of feasibility. These populations, instead, were the object of two separate surveys, one conducted among the James Bay Cree in 1991 and the other among the Nunavik Inuit in 1992. A...

    • 4 Immigrant Suicide in Canada
      (pp. 85-107)
      FRANK TROVATO

      On the basis of the existing literature on this topic, four sets of factors can be identified as being relevant in explaining immigrant suicide in host nations: (1) factors associated with the country of origin; (2) factors associated with the country of destination; (3) selectivity; and (4) demographic compositional differences across groups.

      Studies conducted in Canada and in other immigrant societies, including the United States, Australia, France, and England, indicate that suicide is typically low among southern Europeans and is relatively high for persons from eastern and north-western Europe and, to a lesser extent, among migrants with Anglo-Saxon origins. For...

    • 5 Suicide in Canada and the United States: A Societal Comparison
      (pp. 108-122)
      DAVID LESTER and ANTOON A. LEENAARS

      It is often assumed that the behaviours of Canadians and Americans will be similar because Canada and the United States are in close proximity to each other and share similar languages and cultural backgrounds. However, despite a number of similarities, there is also a degree of divergence. For example, differences between Canada and the United States have been observed in such areas as recognition of authority, patterns of deviance, achievement motivation, and patterns of association and marriage (Spencer, 1985).

      We do not mean to suggest that Canada and the United States are radically different countries because, of course, contrasts between...

  7. Part III: Theory and Research

    • 6 Pain, Depression, and Suicide
      (pp. 125-135)
      PETER D. McLEAN and STEVEN TAYLOR

      Suicide, with the possible exception of euthanasia, is universally perceived as an irrational act that occurs under the influence of psychological problems such as clinical depression (e.g., major depression), problems of impulse control, substance abuse, or some combination of these factors. The most common antecedent to suicide is depression, which can be precipitated by circumstances that the person perceives to be highly aversive, disabling, and unrelenting. Many people who endure chronic pain find themselves in such circumstances. Accordingly, chronic pain is a risk factor for depression, which in turn is a risk factor for suicide. The relationship between chronic pain...

    • 7 Attempted Suicide in Edmonton
      (pp. 136-150)
      ROGER C. BLAND, RONALD J. DYCK, STEPHEN C. NEWMAN and HELENE ORN

      Although the term ‘attempted suicide’ is commonly used, it is unsatisfactory, since the majority of patients designated in this way are not actually attempting suicide. Still, there is an association between the behaviours of ‘attempted suicide’ and suicide. Thus, the term ‘parasuicide’ was proposed (Kreitman et al., 1969). This encompasses a range of behaviours for which differing motives may be proposed from a failed suicide to a cry for help, to impulsive self-mutilation, all of which may be difficult to categorize in a practical manner.

      The working group for the WHO/European multicentre study on parasuicide proposed the following definition: ‘An...

    • 8 Correlates of Suicidal Ideation: Personal Variables, Stress, and Social Support
      (pp. 151-162)
      ANTON F. DE MAN

      It appears that many youths and adults in Canada would agree with Camus’s observation. Over the past decades there has been a significant rise in the number of suicides to the extent that suicide now ranks among the major causes of death.

      A particularly perplexing development has been the alarming increase in suicides among young adults, adolescents, and even children. It has been estimated that each year in Canada some seven hundred young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, and some twenty-five to thirty children under the age of fifteen take their lives (Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention,...

  8. Part IV: First Nations and Inuit

    • 9 Suicide in First Nations People
      (pp. 165-178)
      C.MURRAY SINCLAIR

      While it is with great appreciation that I acknowledge and thank the organizers of the 1992 conference of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention for inviting me to attend and address the assembly, it was also with a great deal of sadness that I prepared this talk, for in doing so I was compelled to contemplate one of the great tragedies of our society – the act of self-destruction.

      Suicide and internal violent crime rates among the Aboriginal population in some areas run at six to ten times the national average. Suicide rates for the ten-year period 1973–82 for...

    • 10 Stories of Distress and Healing: Inuit Elders on Suicide
      (pp. 179-188)
      MICHAEL J. KRAL, MEEKA ARNAKAQ, NAKI EKHO, OKEE KUNUK, ELISAPEE OOTOOVA, MALAYA PAPATSIE and LUCIEN TAPARTI

      The Inuit people of Canada live primarily in the eastern Arctic, as well as in northern Quebec and Labrador. Approximately 80 per cent of the people of the eastern Arctic are Inuit. Literature tells us that the present-day Inuit people stem from the Thule whale-hunting culture that dates back to about AD 900 and overlapped with the Dorset people (approx. 1700 BC – AD 1100), who in turn overlapped with the pre-Dorset and Denbigh people (approx. 3000 BC – 500 BC). Archaeologists have found evidence that people resided in what is now Igloolik four thousand years ago (Purich, 1992). Canadian...

    • 11 Suicide among the Inuit of Canada
      (pp. 189-211)
      LAURENCE J. KIRMAYER, CHRISTOPHER FLETCHER and LUCY J. BOOTHROYD

      Across Canada, Aboriginal people suffer from suicide rates two to three times that of the general Canadian population (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1995). Many reasons have been advanced for this disparity, including socio-economic disadvantage, geographic isolation, rapid culture change with attendant acculturation stress, and the oppressive effects of a long history of internal colonialism (Kirmayer, 1994).

      In this chapter, we will focus on the Inuit, who have had particularly high rates of suicide in recent years (Dickason, 1992; Petawabano et al., 1994; Young, 1994). The 1991 census recorded some 43,000 Canadians with Inuit origins (Waldram et al., 1995). Most...

    • 12 Coping with Northern Aboriginal Youths’ Suicides
      (pp. 212-226)
      MAE KATT, PEGGY KINCH, MARGARET BOONE and BRUCE MINORE

      As is the case, tragically, throughout Canada’s provincial and territorial north, youth suicides are a frequent occurrence in the Aboriginal communities of northwestern Ontario. In the past year alone, twenty-two young Nishnawbek from the Sioux Lookout Zone took their own lives. The magnitude of their loss is underscored by the fact that, at the time (1994), only 13,389 Cree and Ojibway people lived in the twenty-eight Nishnawbe-Aski First Nations of the region. As further evidence of the extent of the problem, the Zone hospital that serves the area reported treating 447 youth who had attempted suicide in the same period....

  9. Part V: Family, Community, and Government Approaches

    • 13 Suicide and the Family in Canada
      (pp. 229-241)
      MICHEL TOUSIGNANT

      The theme of the family is ubiquitous in the suicide literature and Canada has not stood apart in this respect. Its contribution has been significant, both in the field of epidemiology and in that of intervention. Researchers have regularly discovered new paths of enquiry and intervention programs have been innovative, thanks to the fact that suicide, especially among young people, has been rapidly recognized as a public-health priority and that provincial as well as country-wide preventive efforts have been undertaken.

      The scope of this chapter is to cover epidemiological data, studies of impact on the family, as well as assessed...

    • 14 Suicide Prevention in Rural Communities: ‘Designing a Way Forward’
      (pp. 242-255)
      DAVID MASECAR

      Research on the problem of suicide in Canada has received little attention over the years (Leenaars, 1995; Tanney, 1995). The impact of suicide on rural communities has received even less attention in the general literature. On-line searches of many databases (Suicide Information and Education Centre, Psychlit, Wilson Social Sciences, ERIC) produced 107 articles on suicide on any aspect of rurality since the 1950s. Twenty of the 107 articles are from Canada. Of these twenty articles, those that represent actual publications address such issues as community coordination and service-delivery issues (Boldt, 1985; Duplessis and McCrea, 1993; Elliot, 1992), public education among...

    • 15 Suicide Prevention in Canada: Work in Progress
      (pp. 256-272)
      RONALD J. DYCK and JENNIFER WHITE

      Across Canada numerous provinces, territories, municipalities, organizations, and agencies have initiated, or are considering developing, a variety of suicide-prevention programs and activities. These efforts and interests have arisen in response to the mounting evidence that suicidal behaviour is a major public health issue. Indeed, task-force reports (Boldt, 1976; National Task Force, 1987; 1994; Royal Commission, 1995) have not only provided a good deal of evidence highlighting the magnitude of the problem of suicide, specifying the major risk factors and suggesting future directions, but have also stimulated widespread interest in expanding and improving current suicide-prevention efforts. This interest, however, has been...

  10. Part VI: Youth Suicide, Schools, and Communities

    • 16 Comprehensive Youth Suicide Prevention: A Model for Understanding
      (pp. 275-290)
      JENNIFER WHITE

      Youth suicide is a troubling fact of our contemporary society, striking a discordant note among those who would like to believe that adolescence is a carefree time, characterized by great expectations and hope for the future. When our youth, who have ‘the whole world ahead of them,’ become so hopeless and desperate and wilfully act to bring about their own deaths, many of our fundamental beliefs about the world get challenged. Death by suicide among adolescents is a collective concern, confronting all of us with many unanswered questions, but also providing the impetus for the development of a range of...

    • 17 Youth Suicide Prevention in Schools and Community: A Progress Report
      (pp. 291-308)
      ROGER J. TIERNEY

      The United Nations through UNICEF published a report in 1994 which stated that Canada had the third-highest rate of suicide in the world for those fifteen to nineteen years of age and that the increase in the rate for this group from 1970 through 1991 was very high. The UNICEF publication compared rates of suicide for those fifteen to nineteen years of age in 1970 and 1991 for a number of countries. Canada’s 15-to-19 rate went from 7.0 to 13.5 persons per 100,000 over this period. The 1991 figure is the third largest, following behind New Zealand at 15.7 and...

    • 18 Suicide Postvention: Cultural Issues
      (pp. 309-322)
      SUSANNE WENCKSTERN and ANTOON A. LEENAARS

      Suicide is experienced as traumatic by its survivors. Suicide is ‘a psychologically traumatic event that is generally outside the range of usual human experience’ (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1987: 238). A post-traumatic response develops after the event. For a few survivors, but at alarming rates, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs (ibid.). Although even fewer, for some survivors, suicide becomes their option. Figley (1985) defined such post-traumatic responses as ‘a set of conscious and unconscious behaviors and emotions associated with dealing with the memories of the stressors of the catastrophe and immediately afterwards’ (p. xix). In addition to a recognized stressor,...

  11. Part VII: Distress Centres

    • 19 Crisis Intervention: Distress-Centre Model
      (pp. 325-341)
      JOAN WRIGHT and SUSAN PATENAUDE

      Distress centres play a major role in the community in the delivery of mental-health crisis services (Helig et al., 1968). They offer immediate and accessible crisis-intervention services, predominantly by telephone and often through trained volunteers with the support of qualified staff. Besides suicide there are a number of serious social issues to which staff and volunteers must be prepared to respond on a distress line: family violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. A distress centre, or crisis centre as some are called, may also incorporate other programs such as suicide prevention, crisis counselling, and mobile outreach as an extension of...

    • 20 Crisis Lines, Telephone Technology, and Confidentiality
      (pp. 342-352)
      NEVILLE TWINE and NADA BARRACLOUGH

      The interrelationship between crisis lines, telephone technology, and confidentiality has been the basis of crisis-intervention work begun in the 1960s in North America. Where does that relationship stand now, and are there basic changes to be made to crisis work in the 1990s?

      Telephone technology serves as the ‘change icon’ in the crisis centre’s visionary window. Technological change involving the telephone has an impact on consumers of the service, the crisis line, and the environment in which the crisis line works. The challenge is not about incremental tinkering, but, as Senge writes inThe Fifth Discipline(1990), about ‘the nature...

    • 21 Kamatsiaqtut, Baffin Crisis Line: Community Ownership of Support in a Small Town
      (pp. 353-366)
      SHEILA LEVY and ERROL FLETCHER

      The foremost responsibility of any society is to nurture and protect its citizens, especially its children. In the Canadian North today, one of the most serious threats to the health and well-being of its citizens, especially its young people, is suicide.

      This chapter will discuss a program that was initiated in Iqaluit, a small community in Canada’s Arctic. We believe that sharing our experiences and ideas on community ownership of problems and solutions has relevance for other Aboriginal settlements and small towns experiencing extensive social problems. Specifically, it outlines the development of the first successful northern crisis telephone line.

      The...

  12. Part VIII: Survivors

    • 22 My Story: Thoughts of a Survivor
      (pp. 369-375)
      ANNE EDMUNDS

      I will never forget that Tuesday evening, June 15, 1982, when the phone rang about eleven o’clock. I came rushing downstairs fearful of who might be calling so late at night. Forever seared in my memory are those words my husband spoke, ‘Anne, sit down. Richard is dead!’ Our worst fears had taken place – our oldest son, twenty-seven years old, had been discovered dead by suicide, hanging in a closet in his new residence in Calgary, Alberta.

      I remember wandering around the main floor of our large home wailing inconsolably. Hours later I discovered our tiny, beloved poodle shivering...

    • 23 ‘I Can’t Hear the Music’
      (pp. 376-384)
      LINDA ROSENFELD

      ‘I feel as if I’m in a crowded room watching everyone around me dance, but I can’t hear the music,’ said Claire, a survivor who lost both her father and sister to suicide.

      When a loved one dies by suicide, family members in mourning are left alive, left behind, left alone. They do feel left, abandoned to experience pain and loss, and they feel that this is a solitary experience, one that cannot be understood by anyone else.

      In the past fifteen to twenty years, mental-health professionals and volunteer caregivers working in the field of suicidology have learned much about...

    • 24 After Suicide: Reweaving the Web
      (pp. 385-405)
      JEANNETTE A. AMBROSE

      Suicide delivers a triple whammy: survivors must deal not only with the trauma of the suicide death and the personal conceptualization of the suicide act, but also with the psychosocial context in which it occurs. Consequently, assisting those bereaved by suicide involves attending to intrapsychic issues of bereavement, including those that may distinguish it from other types of bereavement, as well as responding to survivors within the context of family and social relationships.

      Since Cain’s (1972) seminal study of suicide survivors, suicide bereavement has been defined as unique and difficult (Dunne et al., 1987; Henley, 1984), but research is by...

    • 25 Women as Survivors of Suicide: An Experience of Integration
      (pp. 406-422)
      LOIS SAPSFORD

      We are endeavouring to knock out of us all the pre-conceived ideas, emptying ourselves of everything except that nature is here in all its greatness, and we are here to gather it and understand it if only we will be clean enough, and humble enough to go to it willing to be taught and to receive it not as we think it should be, but as it is, and then to put down vigorously and truthfully that which we culled.

      F.H. Varley spoke these words in 1914 as he described the Group of Seven, and the task they had taken...

  13. Part IX: The Right to Die

    • 26 A Coroner’s View Regarding the ‘Right to Die’ Debate
      (pp. 425-440)
      JAMES G. YOUNG

      Currently, there is intense worldwide debate involving the issue of the ‘right to die.’ Coroners and medical examiners, as the prime investigators of death, are in a unique position to observe the circumstances surrounding death and to give some added perspective to the ‘right to die’ or euthanasia debate.

      Today’s Western world is ready for the debate concerning the ‘right to die,’ and thus it will take place whether opponents to the concept agree or disagree. It is essential that the public and legislators, along with legal and health-care professionals, have as much background as possible concerning the issues involved...

    • 27 The Right to Die and the Right to Live: Perspectives on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
      (pp. 441-458)
      BRIAN L. MISHARA

      During the past few years there has been vigorous debate in Canada on the legalization of active euthanasia. On the one hand, some contend that the right to a self-chosen death by euthanasia is morally just and constitutes an expression of individual freedom guaranteed by the Canadian constitution. Others, who are opposed to legalization of active euthanasia, may be divided into two camps (not mutually exclusive): those who believe that human life is sacred and that it is not morally justifiable to foreshorten life under any circumstances and those who believe that it is impossible to condone active euthanasia without...

    • 28 Suicide, Euthanasia, and Assisted Suicide
      (pp. 459-474)
      ANTOON A. LEENAARS

      The right-to-die concept is one of the most controversial and elusive issues facing suicide and suicide prevention in Canada today. Most recently, there has been a focus on euthanasia and assisted suicide (Report of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, 1995). Polls (ibid.) and research (Domino and Leenaars, 1989, 1995; Leenaars and Domino, 1993) have indicated a growing support for the right-to-die concept, even more in Canada than the United States. Yet, a persistent question that has been raised is whether people in Canada have a sufficient understanding of what they are considering. This observation is even...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 475-476)
  15. Index
    (pp. 477-488)