Across Canada, 4,000 people die by suicide each year. And for each suicide, there were 100 attempts, five hospitalizations and 22 emergency room visits. (Source:  L. D’Amatro, The Record, December 15, 2012). 

Suicide is appearing in social media and main stream media channels on a more regular basis.  Increasingly it is in articles on senior citizens.  This increase in suicide information will continue in part, due to the recent receipt of Royal Assent for Bill C-300, Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act.  This is a positive outcome on a difficult subject.   MP Kitchener-Conestoga Harold Albrecht’s private member bill was passed in December 2012[1].  The bill considers suicide to be a public health issue.  Rather than dismissing or avoiding examination of suicides there will now be more rigorous reporting requirements.  This will provide the public and researchers with more information about each suicide.  Details will help with suicide prevention.  Details will also give the public more insight on suicides and by reducing the stigma of silence, may help individuals seek help or support others needing help.

Older men have the highest rates of suicide.  When they attempt suicide they are more likely to be successful than others who attempt suicide.  According to Dr. Benoit Mulsant[2] the suicide in elderly populations is not viewed as important as the suicide of someone younger.  In a recent newspaper article Dr. Mulsant indicated that the elderly are seen by the public as as population will little ‘life left to waste’[3].  Some have predicted that the suicide trend of the baby boomers, which is higher than other generations, means that elderly suicide is bound to increase over the next few decades.

Late-in-life financial problems is one reason why suicide may be increasing in older populations.  An article in the Independent (UK newspaper) provided an example of a 68 year old man who, due to job loss, experienced increasing debt and suicidal tendencies.  A charitable organization helped him manage his debt.  It’s this support that he attributed as keeping him from killing himself[4].  Increasing debt and even bankruptcy in older age groups is a new and increasing trend.  This worrisome combination of aging populations and debt suggests that more needs to be learned about elderly suicide and its association with money.  The new Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act will hopefully shed light on the dire effects of financial difficulties later in life.

A side note:  The term ‘eldercide’ is increasingly used in articles to indicate suicide by someone age 65 and older.  I believe this is incorrect usage.  The term eldercide is a homicide of someone age 65 and older.  This use is similar to ‘infanticide’ representing a homicide in an infant.

[2] Dr. Benoit Mulsant is CAMH’s physician-in-chief.

[3] Simon Kent, Toronto Sun, Elderly Suicide Rates Hitting New Highs as Traditional Social Networks Break Down, June 15, 2003.