About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide — almost 11 per day.
More than 75 per cent of suicides involve men, but women attempt suicide three to four times more often. After accidents, it is the second leading cause of death for young people 15 to 24, and more than half of suicides involve people 45 or older. It’s estimated about 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness.
First Nations youth die by suicide five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth. Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
At CAMH, we know suicide is preventable and that strategies can’t wait. The time is now. On World Suicide Prevention Day, we’re sharing highlights of our suicide prevention research across the hospital – research that touches a range of ages and illnesses.
Reaching young people in the emergency department
CAMH’s Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression has identified suicide prevention as one of four treatment gaps in child and youth depression. Cundill Scholar Dr. Daphne Korczak is testing an intervention in which young people who visit the emergency department with acute suicidality receive six weeks of individual and family-based psychotherapy developed specifically for youth. The study is jointly funded by the Cundill Centre and the Centre for Brain and Mental Health at SickKids.
“There are very few interventions for suicidal youth that include a family component, and this is the only one we know of that is brief but still allows time for change,” explains Dr. Korczak. “Adolescents who come to the emergency department with acute suicidality are very likely to survive but have an increased risk of dying over the next decade. We see this as a window of opportunity to engage young people who want help and intervene to prevent that ongoing serious risk down the road.”
Learning from suicide notes
Working with a Sunnybrook team, CAMH researchers are hoping insight gained from a study of suicide notes will help efforts to prevent suicide. The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
“By investigating suicide notes, we have an opportunity to improve our understanding of the mind-set of people in the moments prior to their suicide deaths. The hope is that we can use this information to understand patterns of thinking that contribute to suicide. These patterns can be targets of treatment in those at risk,” says senior author Dr. Juveria Zaheer (pictured in masthead), a Clinician Scientist in CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.
The Discovery Fund
Suicide prevention is also one of four priorities of the Discovery Fund, created through a $100-million gift from an anonymous donor in 2018. Here, Ali Bani-Fatemi is examining the association between suicide attempts and alterations in DNA in specific genes in the brain in hopes of ultimately developing better suicide preventions for people with schizophrenia.