In Canada, according to Partners for Mental Health, 762 young people die every year because of suicide. Considering there are 4000 suicides (10 people per day) in Canada across all age groups (children to seniors) – & suicide at any age is sorrowful – but for there to be almost 20% of the 4000 to come from young people is a disproportionate number of the total stats and simply alarming. It is also estimated that 20% of suicides are not reported – which could add another 150 onto the number quoted.
Stats indicate suicide is the 2nd leading cause death in youth (15-19) after car accidents.
Mental health issues are the number one reason teens end up in hospital.
A study in Ontario in 2012 /13 indicated 10% of students in Grades 7 -12 had contemplated suicide in the previous year – translating that into numbers that is close to 100,000 students!! 3% or nearly 28,000 indicated they had tried to commit suicide. Those numbers are beyond comprehension.
Those numbers tell us we need to do more. More talking. More asking. More supporting. More removal of stigma. More early recognition and intervention.
Those numbers tells us that we are not putting enough focus into programs such as peer to peer or youth engagement programs for youth dealing with a mental illness or mental health concerns, to allow them to remain socially connected, to allow them to have some place ‘safe’ to hang out, to talk, to ask.
“Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and, conversely, that having strong human bonds can be protective against it.”
Social isolation is often seen as a significant barrier for youth dealing with a mental illness. Peer support programs or social / recreational programs, places where they can engage socially in a safe environment are valuable resources in providing hope and recovery for youth living with a mental illness and yet many communities do not have these programs.
Mental illness may not be easily seen or measured but the pain that it causes can be a physical pain and just as debilitating or more so than a physical illness.
Today, as we mark World Suicide Prevention Day, we ask you to talk to your friends and family about mental health matters. Let them know it is OK to talk. When something seems wrong let them know it is OK to ask and it is OK for you to ask. And sometimes just being there for that person who is struggling, showing them support and caring, having someone to hold their hand while the dark storm swirls is what it will take for them to see the light shine through the clouds and weather the storm.