A report on suicide released by Suicide Action Montreal (SAM) during Quebec Suicide Prevention Week last week shows that the West Island had the lowest rate of suicide, 5.1 deaths per 100,000 people, in the period covering 2007 to 2009. The largest number of West Island victims, 25 per cent, were over 65 years old.
For the purposes of the report Montreal was divided into 12 sectors, each one identified by its Centre de santé et de services sociaux (CSSS).
The Jeanne Mance sector had the highest rate of suicide, at 17.4. The largest number of victims, 45 per cent, were under 40 years old.
There were 566 suicides in the Montreal region during the two-year period in question. The Montreal-wide suicide average was 10.1 per 100,000 people.
“People in (the Jeanne Mance sector) tend to live a more isolated existence and are more transient than in the West Island,” SAM general director André Landry said. “They tend to be childless and unemployed. And poverty is more of an issue than in the West Island.
“We find depression everywhere on the island, including the West Island, but substance abuse is higher in certain areas served by the Jeanne Mance CSSS.”
Landry said before it can be pinpointed why one-in-four suicide victims in the West Island is a senior citizen, more information is needed.
“Could it be that the senior is abusing medication following the diagnosis of a health problem?” Landry said.
In fact, Landry said what is not included in the report is proving to be just as important as the information gathered because it points to flaws in the system.
Between 15 and 40 per cent of the files on victims of suicide are missing crucial information, like the employment status or possible immigration problems at time of death.
“Each coroner fills out the form in his or her own way,” Landry said. “We need a standardized form which includes all the crucial information. And we need access to a database to file the detailed information about the characteristics of each victim.
“One of the most under-reported statistic is how many attempted suicides takes place. (Canada-wide), for every 25 attempted suicides, one person dies. An attempted suicide is an indicator of someone in need of immediate help.”
Last week, PQ Health and Social Services minister Réjean Hébert announced a data bank will be in place by this fall to gather complete profiles of suicide victims.
“The more precise the information, the better we can funnel funding where it is needed most and the better we can refine services on the front lines (from sector to sector) to best serve the clients’ needs,” Landry said.
Landry also said the lines of communication and information sharing must improve between doctors, hospitals, police, crisis centres and CLSCs.
“It’s not good enough to give someone a card and tell them to call if they need help,” Landry said. “If they are on the brink of suicide, they are too worn down to call someone. This is where interfacing will help. If a doctor suspects a patient is in crisis, (he or she) can call the local CLSC or neighbourhood crisis centre and have them reach out to the person immediately to offer counselling or shelter,” Landry said. “This type of interfacing has worked in other countries. It creates a continuity of service, a safety net of sorts.”
The research paper Profil des personnes décédées par suicide dans la région de Montréal 2007-2009 was written by Université du Québec à Montréal professor Janie Houle with doctoral candidate Catherine Guillou-Ouellette.
The link to the complete report, in French only, is posted in the documents section at www.suicideactionmontreal.org.
For immediate help, call Suicide Action Montreal, 1-866-277-3553.
For more information, visit the West Island Heath and Social Services Centre website, www.csssouestdelile.qc.ca or call the CLSC Pierrefonds (514-626-2572, ext. 3956) or the CLSC Lac Saint Louis (514-697-4110, ext. 1334).
Friends for Mental Health offers support to families dealing with a mental illness. Call 514-636-6885 or visit www.asmfmh.org.