June 22nd, 2024

Suicide numbers released: Anyone is at risk, but middle-aged men are extra vulnerable

By Gillian Slade on June 20, 2018.


There were 11 suicide deaths in Medicine Hat last year.

They ranged in age from 26 to 66, with the average age being 48 years. Of the 11 suicides, seven were male and four female, according to information from victims assistance Medicine Hat. They are sometimes called to meet with family members struggling with the suicide death of a loved one, said Nathalie Castets.

“We get called out to assist with the family emotionally right at that crisis point,” said Castets.

There is no single cause that leads to suicide but there may be some warning signs to look for, said Breanne Mellen, community helpers program co-ordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association. There may be changes in how the person is talking.

“They may be talking about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, feeling like a burden, being trapped,” said Mellen.

Behaviour may change.

“So they might withdraw from activities, withdraw from family and friends, they might be sleeping more or less than they usually do, eating more or less, giving away prized possessions,” said Mellen.

Suicide can affect anyone but there may be things that have happened in someone’s life that contribute to the person thinking that suicide is an option, said Mellen.

“It could be anything from the loss of a pet to the loss of a job to the loss of a loved one,” said Mellen.

In this region, youth are often seen as being particularly vulnerable to suicide, but the high-risk category is actually middle age men.

“Middle-aged men are at a little bit higher risk,” said Mellen.

The reason for this is not absolutely clear. Men may be less likely to share with others if they are going through a rough patch and may be more reluctant to ask for support.

Having acknowledged this demographic though could have people potentially missing signs of need in other demographics, and absolutely anyone is at risk, said Mellen.

The recent deaths of celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have raised the question of what signs we should all be aware of. Bourdain and Spade were seemingly very successful.

“Check on your strong friends,” said Mellen. “He (Bourdain) was a very strong individual and his friends obviously thought that he was doing well, but he wasn’t. Check in with your friends that are struggling but check in with your strong friends, too.”

It can be a simple question about whether the person would like to “talk” and asking them directly if they are thinking about suicide, said Mellen.

“Are you struggling right now, am I missing something?” said Mellen.

People who need help are very likely to want to talk, it can open the door and help them realize someone does want to listen, she said.

Nothing about suicide is typical. Some people may appear to be happier just before suicide because they have made the decision to die, said Mellen. Others may seem happier because they really are doing better.

There are many avenues in this community to respond to specific needs of the individual who is struggling with thoughts of suicide, said Castets.

“We want everybody to know that we are always here for them,” said Castets.

For anyone who is contemplating suicide there is hope and they are not alone, said Mellen. There are places to reach out to for help.

You can call 911 or the distress Centre in Calgary that is staffed 24/7. Call 1-800-784-2433.

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