Recession pushing more people to call suicide hotlines: groups

MONTREAL — Economic woes are pushing more Canadians to the edge, suicide prevention groups say as they try to raise awareness of the problem on Thursday’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

MONTREAL — Economic woes are pushing more Canadians to the edge, suicide prevention groups say as they try to raise awareness of the problem on Thursday’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

Quebec’s suicide-prevention hotline says it received 20 per cent more calls in the last 12 months than the previous year.

One national group says it has pleaded with Ottawa for two years — and been ignored — in its push for a national strategy to fight what it calls a “major public health problem.”

The director of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention said there are more than 3,500 suicides each year across the country, a rate that places Canada among the top third in the world.

“That’s something like 11 deaths by suicide every day in Canada, which when you think about it, is a pretty alarming figure,” Tim Wall said in an interview from Winnipeg.

“There’s still far too many people being affected by suicide in this country.”

And recessions appear to make matters worse.

“Financial hardships and pressures certainly can increase people’s vulnerability and certainly add considerable stress to people’s lives,” Wall said.

The director of the Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention offered a glimpse Wednesday at the psychological toll that tough economic times can take.

Over the last 12 months, the number of calls placed to the province’s suicide prevention hotline were up 20 per cent, Bruno Marchand said.

He attributes a portion of the added callers to the fact more Quebecers are aware of the call centre. But Marchand said recessions always play a role.

“We do know, and this has been proven by researchers, that there’s a link between economic conditions and suicide,” Marchand said after holding a news conference in Montreal to promote services available to the public.

“When the economic conditions are good, we know that suicides tend to go down and when the economic conditions are bad, there’s a tendency for suicide (rates) to get higher.”

Marchand said 1,091 people committed suicide in Quebec in 2007 — the highest suicide rate in the country — but it’s still too early to know if suicide rates are up in the last year.

On a more positive note, over the last decade, the rate had been decreasing almost four per cent annually in Quebec, while Canada-wide numbers had remained relatively stable.

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