POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 47 The Issue Every year close to 3,700 people in Canada commit suicide. Many of these deaths could be prevented by early recognition of the signs of suicidal thinking and appropriate intervention, and early identification and effective treatment of mental illness. Background According to a Public Health Agency of Canada report in 2006, suicide account or 1.7 % of all deaths in Canada. However, this statistic does not take into consideration those suicides wrongly reported as accidental deaths or cases where it is difficult to assess whether or not the death was intentional. In fact, between 2000 - 2003, the annual number of reported deaths from suicide was higher than the number of deaths from transport accidents. The suicide rate among men is nearly four times higher than the rate among women. However, women are twice as likely to attempt suicide as men. The difference seems to come from the fact that men more often use a more lethal means, such as firearms or hanging to end their lives. Women are more likely to choose a more prolonged method, such as an overdose of pills, where there is a greater chance of an intervention that will save their lives. Also, men are generally more reluctant to seek help on mental health issues than women. Among adults aged 15 years and older, more than 3% have attempted suicide in their lifetime. More than one in five deaths among adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years is due to suicide. Suicide rates are much higher in some Aboriginal communities. Despite the fact that almost everyone in Canada has been touched by suicide, there is still a stigma attached to it and to mental illness in general. Stigma is a complex issue involving many factors, including religious practices that do not allow people who commit suicide to be buried in sacred ground. This stigma can be a barrier to someone seeking help for suicidal feelings. Factors in Suicidal Behaviour There are four main factors that come into play in suicidal behaviour. Predisposing factors The factors that make an individual vulnerable to suicidal behaviour include: • Mental illness • Abuse • Loss of a loved one early in life • Family history of suicide •Long-term difficulty with peer relationships. Almost all people who kill themselves have a mental illness, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. They often abuse drugs or alcohol. Although people who commit suicide are commonly depressed, only a minority of people who are depressed are suicidal. Previous suicide attempts are common among those who eventually die by suicide. Precipitating factors These are the factors that create a crisis. The most common of these factors are losses, such as job loss, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, divorce or loss of position in society. Other factors that may cause the crisis include: • Pressure to succeed • Conflict with the law SUICIDE PREVENTION ►