More men die by suicide than women in the U.S. and Canada on a yearly basis.
But the rate of suicide is rising among women more quickly than men in both countries.
A recent study by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics found that the rate of women who die by suicide increased by 50 per cent between 2000 and 2016. That’s compared to a 21 per cent rate of increase for men.
“The narrowing in the ratio of male-to-female suicide rates reflects the accelerated increase in female suicide rates compared with male suicide rates beginning in 2007,” the study reads.
Suicide by the numbers in Canada
In Canada, the statistics show a similar pattern.
In 2015, suicide claimed the lives of 3,269 Canadian men and 1,136 women.
In an email to Global News, Statistics Canada confirmed that suicide rates are increasing faster among women than men, north of the border as well.
“Based on the average annual rate of increase in the age-standardized mortality rates over the period 2000 to 2015 (or any shorter period ending in 2015), then yes, the suicides are increasing at a greater rate among women than among men,” the email read.
Fardous Hosseiny, the national director of research and public policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association, broke down the numbers for Global News.
“Suicide rates are still higher in males, but the percentage change over 2011 and 2015 show in males there’s been an increase in 12 per cent and for women an increase of 15 per cent,” Hosseiny said.
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He said while there is a larger increase for women, it’s not “substantially different” in Canada.
Hosseiny explained that suicide among men is more common largely because of the added stigma they face.
“A lot of it is the stigma they face when it comes to talking about suicide and the masculinity, and the fact that if you come out and talk, it’s looked at as weakness. But it actually takes courage,” he said.
What causes suicide among women?
The trouble is that statistics don’t offer a fuller picture of why rates are rising for women, Hosseiny explained.
“There hasn’t been much research or anything that shows causation,” he said. “It’s a lot of speculation.”
Anuradha Dugal, the director of violence prevention at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, told Global News that there are a lot of reasons why women struggle with mental health, but drawing direct connections to increased suicide rates is very difficult.
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A major mental-health challenge for women is the amount of work they do — and the stress it causes.
“The level of stress that women experience because of being in a sandwich generation, so taking care of children as well as taking care of elderly parents, that definitely is happening in Canada,” Dugal said.
She added that the number of single mothers is also rising, which adds to the difficulties women may face, such as higher rates of poverty.
Women are also more likely to experience violence, which is proven in multiple studies to increase the likelihood of mental-health conditions.
“Many women with a history of violence have significantly higher rates of major depression, and 50 per cent of women who have experienced violence have also had a mental-health diagnosis,” Dugal said.
The risk of becoming suicidal can be three to five times higher for women who have experienced violence, she explained.
Women ‘high risk’ for mental-health conditions
According to an annual Mental Health Risk Index released by Ipsos, Canadian women are more likely than men to report mental illnesses or conditions.
Out of the women surveyed in the April 2018 report, 33 per cent of women had have been diagnosed compared to 22 per cent of men.
The report also outlined that women, lower-income individuals and millennials were among the “high risk” cohorts for mental illnesses.
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For those seeking help, Hosseiny recommends contacting a crisis line.
“If you are in crisis, call 1-833-456-4566, text 45645 or chat at crisisservicescanada.ca,” he said.
Hosseiny added that First Nations individuals can also access help at hopeforwellness.ca.
Dugal also suggested that contacting a family doctor can help, because they can suggest avenues of seeking help specific to personal circumstances.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. For mental-health programs and services around Canada, please refer to the list here.