While this week’s Blue Monday has been toted as “the most depressing day of the year,” hard numbers show that anyone suffering from fatal or possibly fatal mental health issues are doing so all year-round.
Suicide rates across the province have been consistent both monthly and annually, according to the BC Coroners Services most recent data, spanning from 2007 to 2017.
On average, 543 people die by suicide provincially every year; of these, an average of 37 are Greater Victoria residents.
No one month seems more likely than any other, though for several years in the decade-long record there was a very minor increase in the spring and summer months.
The most common methods of death are by hanging, poisoning and firearm. The highest rate is seen in people aged 40-49.
The most outstanding number in suicide deaths, however, is who is dying.
“What our data does show is that men are over-represented in those dying by suicide with about three in every four deaths involving male decedents,” said Andy Watson, manager of strategic communications at the BC Coroners Service in an emailed statement.
University of Victoria assistant professor of psychology Brianna Turner said that this doesn’t mean depression is more prevalent in men.
“Women actually have higher rates of depression, and a higher rate of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts,” Turner said. “But men are more likely to choose more lethal means… they may have more familiarity and access to guns, for example.”
This trend, Turner adds, is seen in a majority of places around the world.
Of course, the statistical data only shows deaths which are determined to be suicide; they do not count unclear deaths nor suicide attempts.
At a local level, the Greater Victoria Police Victim Services (GVPVS) provide emotional and practical support to victims and survivors of trauma and crime. If police come across a suicide or attempted suicide, they offer friends and family members help from the GVPVS.
“It’s hard to predict when we get those calls or referrals and we’re not called for all of them; some people decline our service,” said Karen French, program director at GVPVS. “However, the numbers are pretty consistent, we can’t really predict which months are worse… really, we can find something in every month that could be a trigger.”
French said that typically they are called to between 30-50 suicides or attempted suicides in a year. So far in the organization’s fiscal year they’ve been called to 32.
There is non-judgmental help out there for anyone struggling with mental health issues, for anyone contemplating suicide, and for anyone who knows someone going through the situation.
Anyone who needs help for depression or suicide-related mental health issues can call the provincial suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-Suicide (1-800-784-2433), or visit crisislines.bc.ca to find local mental health and crisis resources. People can also call the Canadian Assistance in Suicide Prevention 24/7 hotline at 1-888-353-2273.