Suicide risks too common

Suicide is a preventable tragedy, the worst outcome of mental illness and something we need to talk more openly about.

According to statistics on the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention website, 11 people in Canada end their lives by suicide each day and an additional 210 attempt suicide.

That adds up to more than 4,000 lives lost each year in our country alone.

Suicide is most prevalent among older, white males and is associated with mental or other medical illness, loss, poor social support and functional impairment.

Suicide is also relatively common among seniors with 12 in every 100,000 people over the age of 65 dying from suicide each year.

More than 90 per cent of suicide victims are known to have one or more psychiatric disorders at the time of their death. Suicides may be preventable if psychiatric illnesses are managed properly and if supports are in place.

A 2015 European study examined 2,811 depressed individuals and found that 40 per cent of patients who attempted suicide experienced mixed state depression rather than depression alone.

The term "mixed state" is used to describe a patient who meets the full clinical criteria for depression, but also exhibits some of the hallmarks of mild mania.

In this study, researchers found a risk of attempting suicide is at least 50 per cent higher if a depressed patient presents with risky or impulsive behaviour or psychomotor agitation (such as pacing, hand wringing etc).

Sometimes when focusing on symptoms of depression, health-care professionals may not pay enough attention to these behaviours and could miss identifying a mixed state.

A mixed state may require the reduction or cessation of anti-depressants, the addition of an anti-psychotic or mood stabilizer and should probably be under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

Early identification and proper management of mixed states could make a big difference in suicide prevention.

Reducing stigma around mental-health issues, improving access to services, dealing with the social determinants of health such as poverty, and addressing substance abuse are other important ways we can all work to prevent suicide.

If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelming helplessness or despair or are feeling suicidal for any reason, seek help.

Talk to someone you trust and enlist the aid of a professional.

There are people in the community trained to help find solutions and who will work through these issues with you.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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