The inherent nature of working in Alberta’s oilpatch does put men at risk for suicide, said Robert Olson, who is with the Centre for Suicide Prevention based in Calgary.
There are known risks in the male-oriented oil industry, he said.
The transient population, where a lot of workers come in from elsewhere, means there are fewer social supports and less stability. This makes workers more susceptible to depression and loneliness. They often work in isolation, have a lot of money and access to abusive substances, Olson said.
A downturn in the economy can put oilpatch workers at even greater risk, and for men, there’s still that stigma and “macho” resistance to getting help.
“We’re stoic and self-sufficient, and unfortunately all these different factors coming at an individual may have compiled, and when one more event is piled on … you’ve just had enough.”
Preliminary suicide statistics for 2016 show that 460 people took their lives in Alberta. Of this, 353 were male and 107 were female. For males, the highest numbers were in the 50-to-54 age category (41), then the 40-to-44 age category (38).
The number of Alberta suicides spiked dramatically in 2015, when 662 people killed themselves. This included 493 males and 169 females. In 2014, there were 542 suicides; 535 in 2013; and 507 in 2012.
Alberta’s suicide rates are usually higher than the rest of Canada.
Olson said there will be a clearer perspective on suicide numbers after the 2017 statistics become available next year. Whether they will reflect a downward trend, or 2015 is more the new reality in a still stagnant oilfield economy is yet to be determined, he said.
Organizations such as the Centre for Suicide Prevention are continuing to work at encouraging men to seek help they need earlier on, he said.
If you or someone you know needs help, here are some resources:
l Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary website suicideinfo.ca
l Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention website suicideprevention.ca
l Alberta Health Services Mental Health Helpline 1-877-303-2642