Saturday, November 06, 2004

Every 35 seconds, someone on Earth commits suicide

In our society we often hear of terrible murders or shootings that have occurred, but what of suicides? What are the data on these two types of life-ending situations?
In Canada, suicide is 7 TIMES more common than homicide. As well, suicide is about 4 TIMES more likely to happen in men. (Generally, about 3500 suicides each year compared to about 500 homicides. There is more recent homicide data than suicide data, but please check the links for yourself.)
Suicides: 1996/1997 suicide rate (Stats Can), 42 year graph (irate author's page though)
Homicide: 1999-2003 homicides (Stats Can), 41 year frequency graph

I can only presume that we hear of homicides more often because they signify a potential threat to ‘you,’ whilst a suicidal person is ‘only’ a threat to themselves.

First, I think of how many suicides might occur in a ‘hidden’ manner and would therefore be misattributed to car accidents or various other events that seem inadvertent but in fact were premeditated. This would invalidate the notion of suicidal persons only harming themselves.

Second, what are we actually trying to achieve as a society? Even if it is true that someone with a gun is more likely to harm you than someone who just wants to kill themselves, isn’t suicide a bigger issue? The main reason homicide is bad is because it denies another life. Life is intrinsically valuable. People are ends unto themselves. The preciousness of life is the ultimate reason underlying debates about human rights, war, abortion, and religion. The very nature of suicide rejects these notions.

I just wanted to highlight the nature of the situation here in Canada because I did not know the numbers were so high. It was only after I read an article detailing the causes of death in the US and saw that suicides were above gun deaths, that it was evident that our society may too have deeper problems that exist in a manner unrelated to outward violence. (Just to clarify, the Canadian stats are all homicides, not just gun related incidents. Additionally, the suicide stats say nothing of attempted suicides)

For intellectual stimulation, do you think one of my sentences technically should have been ‘the main reason homicide is bad is because it denies another life… without their consent?’

Lastly, each year 1 million people die will from suicide. Suicide accounts for half of all violent deaths worldwide!?!? Shocking and saddening!

If you need help, or here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago I visited the grave of a guy I knew who committed suicide when we were all 17 years old. The reason? Bad family situation, depression, and his girlfriend had recently dumped him. As I looked at his grave which was strewn with tattered teddy bears and flowers and cards, the only thing that came to mind was, "This is not what he really wanted.". I heard a quote once which was something to the effect of, "People want to die, but they don't want to be dead." I thought it was fitting.

In addition to the casualties from suicide, you also have to think of the survivors. The guy I just mentioned was found hanging in his bedroom by his parents. Another girl that I went to school with killed herself, but was found after *four* days by her parents who grew worried that she wasn't returning her phone calls. Think about that for a moment. How, as a parent, would you get over something like that? Quite literally, a part of the parents has died along with the child, and they will most likely spend the rest of their lives wondering what went wrong and whether it could have been prevented.

Random reaction: I really thought the rates of suicide would have been higher for women, not men. Any thoughts as to why? My guess: women are more likely to get help with their problems and express them to friends and family. (?)

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1 is suprisingly insightful and hit on some key issues related to suicide. I worked at a suicide/distress line with a pretty intense training program. A couple of sessions were on suicide, and they were tough, but informative. Not reporting suicides is part of "responsible journalism" because increase suicide rates. In fact, their are media watchdogs that will cite and fine media outlets that report frivilous suicides. Only when the suicide would be difficult not to report is it allowed (ie. the death of a celebrity or politician can be reported, since this information would be impossible to keep from the general public). And as you mentioned, their is no real *reason* to report suicides.

Their should, however, be more news pieces that deal with the prevalence of suicide among youth, and the disparity of suicide rates in men and women. In part, this is because women are encouraged to talk about their feelings, while men are encouaged to keep their feelings hidden. But women are actually more likely to *attempt* suicide, while men are more likely to succeed. This is again due in part to how society molds the two genders: men are more likely to choose violent means to end their own life (ie. jumping from a building, or shooting themselves) while women are more likely to try the end their lives using *reversible* (ie. overdose) or time-consuming methods where there is a greater potential to be interrupted (ie. cutting wrists). Of course, this is not to undercut women - obviously anyone who attempts suicide should be taken 100% seriously. The best predictor of suicide is if an individual has attempted before.

In fact, no one wants to die. Suicidal people, who are often so depressed they actually feel they would be relieving their loved ones of a burden, do not want to end their lives, but only want to end their pain. They see no other solution to their problems. Ask anyone who is suicidal if all their problems were fixed, would they still want to die, and every one would answer "no". Unfortunately, suicidal people often cannot see another option. They become extremely self-centred when they focus on their own pain, even forgetting of dismissing the shock and horror of a family member finding them.

Our goal at the distress line was to encouage suicidal callers to find some solution to right now (throw the pills away, hide the gun, call a friend), and then discuss some long-term solutions that might be a means to deal with their suicidal thoughts, which often included the free counselling services that were offered as a part of The Support Network (which ran the distress line). Our other goal was to offer a comprehensive listing of social services for the city, because often people don't even know what's out their in terms of help.

I hope this wasn't more of an answer than you were looking for, and I appreciate your interest. I think it's something that too many people don't want to talk about.

2:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home