22% of Canadian teens considered suicide this past year: Kids Help Phone study

A new survey from Kids Help Phone found 22 per cent Canadian teens considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months. AP Photo

One-in-five Canadian teenagers seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to a new report by Kids Help Phone which paints a stark picture of mental health among young people.

The report titled “Teens Talk 2016” is based on the results of a survey of 1,319 teens aged 13 to 18, across the country and found 22 per cent of those who responded, seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months.

READ MORE: Canada needs funding to plan national suicide prevention strategy, experts say

The report also found that among those who considered suicide:

  • 47 per cent did not speak to anyone about it.
  • 46 had formulated a plan.
  • Girls (67 per cent) were twice as likely as boys (33 per cent) to consider taking their own lives.

While the statistics may seem startling, they are not surprising to mental health experts who have studied suicide among Canada’s youth.

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“The number of young people that are suffering in silence is significant,” Ian Manion, a psychologist specializing in youth suicide told Global News.

Manion, the director of youth research at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, said the results from the Kids Help Phone survey mirror research he conducted in the 1990s which found similar numbers.

“Suicide is still a big taboo. People don’t like to think that someone they care about would be having thoughts like that,” Manion said. He added that the higher number of girls with suicidal thoughts could be attributed to a reporting bias, meaning boys are less likely to admit to thinking about taking their lives.

READ MORE: Here are the three groups at ‘high risk’ of mental health issues in Canada

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And the stakes couldn’t be higher in Canada. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 34, only after motor vehicle accidents.

An editorial by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) published earlier this week called for a concrete plan ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day. It falls  on Sept. 10 and was created by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, with the World Health Organization as co-sponsor.

Over the past year there have been several instances of large numbers of suicides or suicide attempts among young Canadians, many of them aboriginal.

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READ MORE: One-third of Canadians at ‘high risk’ for mental health concerns, poll warns

In April, Attawapiskat, a remote First Nation in Northern Ontario, saw more than 100 people attempt suicide over the course of seven months. From December to March, five youths from Kuujjuaq, an Inuit village in northern Quebec, died by suicide.

And in Woodstock, Ont., five young people took their lives over the course of a four-month period.

READ MORE: How do you stop a youth suicide crisis from happening? Experts say it begins with education

Jennifer Murdoch, associated vice-president for counselling services and programs at Kids Help Phone, said the report underlines the idea that teens across Canada are not experiencing isolated suicidal thoughts but often they accompany other issues like self-image concerns,  violence at home or school and substance abuse.

“The report reinforces the idea that suicidal thoughts are common,” Murdoch told Global News. “There are great opportunities within some of these findings to help us and organizations like ours, to really understand the reason why youth are experiencing these challenges.”

The report also found that half of teens who considered suicide had researched the topic on the web or social media highlighting the need to engage young people online, Murdoch said.

Manion said it’s not only important to discuss the issue of suicide, but to keep talking about it with those who are affected.

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“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Manion. “It shouldn’t stop when someone discloses they have [suicidal] thoughts. Those thoughts are an indication of them struggling with something and we should be able to provide them with the right kinds of supports so they don’t struggle so much. So they don’t feel so alone with their thoughts and feelings that are overwhelming.”

Where to get help?

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 911 can send immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868  all offer ways for getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues.

Have you or someone you know dealt with a mental health issue? Use the form below if you want to share your story with Global News. We promise not to publish anything you send us using the form below without your explicit permission.

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-With a file from Dani-elle Dube

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