About Suicide

general facts | suicide in Canada | by provinces | suicide around the world | prevention | how to respond

The Facts About Suicide

Suicide is preventable. Most people who attempt suicide want to live but are overcome with emotional pain and cannot see any other way to handle a situation that may seem overwhelming and impossible to bear. Most people who die by suicide give definite warning signs of their suicidal intentions. This is one reason learning to recognize these signs and how to respond to them is so important. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal or increase the risk. Showing genuine concern by asking about suicide directly can be part of an immediate intervention. Four out of five people who die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt. Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries. Males die by suicide more than three times as often as females but three times more women than men attempt suicide.

Suicide in Canada

In Canada, suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death, with rates increasing over the past 60 years. In Canada, in 2005, suicide accounted for 3,743 deaths (2,857 males and 886 females); an age-standardized mortality rate of 10.9 per 100,000 persons.

Males died more often by suicide (age-standardized mortality rate of 16.9 per 100,000 population) than females (5.1 per 100,000 population). Based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.7% of Canadians have thought about suicide and 3.5% have attempted suicide in their lifetime. Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest among elderly males, the current impact of suicide on society has been exacerbated by its increasing frequency among the young. In all countries it is now one of the top five leading causes of death among young people aged 15-34 years of both sexes, worldwide. In Canada in 2005, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 15-34 years, second only to accidents/unintentional injuries. The loss of young, potentially productive people from society has been estimated by the WHO in terms of disability-adjusted life years, which indicates the number of healthy years of life lost to an illness or event. According to their calculations, the burden of suicide is about 20 million disability-adjusted lifeyears and is equal to the burden of all wars and homicides throughout the world. (See sources at the bottom of this page for references).

  • No deaths by suicide were recorded among children under age 10.
  • Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First nations and Inuit than for non-Aboriginal youth
  • The Inuit youth suicide rate is 11 times the national average.
  • Not all Aboriginal communities are affected by suicide to the same extent, the statistics vary from region to region but it is generally accepted that the rates for native suicide are underestimated in general as they are only collected among Aboriginal people with treaty status and does not capture data from non-status or Métis people.

Suicide in Canada by Province and Territory

Newfoundland and Labrador

According to national suicide statistics, 55 persons died by suicide in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) in 2005. The age-standardized suicide rate in this province that year was 9.7 per 100,000 population, with the rate in males (15.9 per 100,000) being over four times the rate in females (3.7 per 100,000).

Prince Edward Island

Thirteen people died by suicide in 2005 on Prince Edward Island, giving an age standardized death rate of 10.8 per 100,000 persons. Male suicides occurred at a much higher rate than female suicides, at 19.8 and 2.1 per 100,000 population, respectively.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia in 2005, 86 persons died by suicide at an age-standardized rate of 8.9 per 100,000 population. The rate in males (16.2 per 100,000 population) was 9 times higher than the rate in females (1.8 per 100,000 population) in this province.

New Brunswick

One hundred and one persons died by suicide in New Brunswick in 2005, denoting an age-standardized rate of 12.6 per 100,000 persons. Males died by suicide at four times the rate in females (20.2 vs 5.2 per 100,000 population).


Statistics Canada noted that 1237 individuals died by suicide in Quebec in 2005. Death by suicide occurred at an age-standardized rate of 15.1 per 100,000 individuals in this province, with the rate being higher in males than females (23.8 vs 6.6 per 100,000 population).


In 2005, 1115 people died by suicide in Ontario at an age-standardized rate of 8.3 per 100,000 population; the lowest provincial/territorial rate in Canada. Suicide was more frequent in males than females, with rates of 12.7 per 100,000 and 4.1 per 100,000, respectively.


In Manitoba, 166 people died by suicide in 2005. This figure represents an agestandardized rate of 14.4 per 100,000 population, with the rate nearly 4 times higher in males than in females (22.8 vs 6.0 per 100,000).


One hundred and fifteen people died by suicide in 2005 in Saskatchewan at an agestandardized rate of 11.5 per 100,000 population. Suicide death was more common in males (17.1 per 100,000) than females (6.0 per 100,000) after adjusting for age.


In 2005, 412 people died by suicide in Alberta (age-standardized rate of 12.2 per 100,000 population). Looking at age-standardized rates, males died by suicide more often than females (18.0 vs. 6.3 per 100,000).

British Columbia

According to Statistics Canada from 2005, suicide deaths occur at an age-standardized rate of 8.8 per 100,000 population in this province; a total of 412 deaths in 2005. The rate in males is higher (13.2 per 100,000) compared to females (4.6 per 100,000).

Yukon Territory

In 2005, five people in The Yukon died by suicide; four males and one female at an agestandardized rate of 12.3 per 100,000 population.

Northwest Territories

Four males died by suicide in the Northwest Territories in 2005. No females died by suicide that year. The age standardized rate was 8.8 per 100,000 across both sexes, and for males it was 17.2 per 100,000.


In 2005, 16 males and 4 females died by suicide in Nunavut. The age-standardized mortality rate in Nunavut is the highest in Canada at 51.2 per 100,000 population; a rate that is 3-6 times higher than the rate in other provinces/territories. The rate in males is over four and a half times the rate in females, at 83.2 per 100,000 population and 17.9 per 100,000, respectively.

Suicide Around the World

  • Every year, almost one million people die from suicide; a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15 – 44 years.  Suicide accounts for more loss of life in the world than the total number of deaths from war, acts of terrorism and homicide combined
  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide.
  • Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998, and 2.4% in countries with market and former socialist economies in 2020.
  • Although traditionally suicide rates have been highest among the male elderly, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.
  • Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide in Europe and North America; however, in Asian countries impulsiveness plays an important role. Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved.

15 September 2009 — A recent WHO study shows that young people are often at risk, and that suicide is the second largest cause of mortality in the 10-24 age group. However, there are different risk factors in different cultures.

Source: World Health Organization – Suicide Prevention  www.who.int/en/

Rate of suicide

In 2001, the crude rate of suicide (not standardized for age) in Canada was 11.9 per 100,000 population.3,4

The suicide rate for males was 18.6 per 100,000 population and 5.2 per 100,000 population for females

Contrary to common belief, suicide rates are not highest among adolescents.  During the period 1997-2001, the highest rates occurred among

Gender Age Rate per 1000,00
Combined 49 – 50 18.5
Males 40 – 44 28.7
Females 45 – 49 9.3

See also: Australia Senate Report “the Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia

How Can Suicide Be Prevented

The majority of suicides can be prevented.  There are a number of measures that can be taken at community and national levels to reduce the risk, including:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, medication, guns);
  • treating people with mental disorders (particularly those with depression, alcoholism, and schizophrenia);
  • following-up people who made suicide attempts;
  • responsible media reporting;
  • training primary health care workers;
  • mental health promotion.

At a more personal level, it is important to know that only a small number of suicides happen without warning. Most people who die by suicide give definite warnings of their intentions. Therefore, all threats of self-harm should be taken seriously. In addition, a majority of people who attempt suicide are ambivalent and not entirely intent on dying.

Many suicides occur in a period of improvement when the person has the energy and the will to turn despairing thoughts into destructive action. However, a once-suicidal person is not necessarily always at risk: suicidal thoughts may return but they are not permanent and in some people they may never return.

Source: World Health Organziation (WHO) How can suicide be prevented?

How to be Helpful When Someone is Suicidal

  • Take all threats or attempts seriously
  • Be aware and learn warning signs of suicide
  • Be direct and ask if the person is thinking of suicide.  If the answer is yes, ask if the person has a plan and what the time line is.
  • Be non-judgmental and empathic
  • Do not minimize the feelings expressed by the person
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy …seek out the support of appropriate professionals
  • Ask if there is anything you can do
  • Draw on resources in the person’s network
  • Do not use clichés or try to debate with the person
  • In an acute crisis take the person to an emergency room or walk in clinic or call a mobile crisis service if one is available
  • Do not leave them alone until help is provided
  • Remove any obvious means e.g. firearms, drugs or sharp objects) from the immediate vicinity

Source: International Association of Suicide Prevention   http://www.iasp.info/resources/Helping_Someone


American Association of Suicidology  www.suicidology.org

Canadian Mental Health Association www.cmha.ca

Health Canada  www.hc-sc.gr.ca

Suicide Education and Information Centre www.suicideinfo.ca

Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca

World Health Organization www.who.int

International Association of Suicide Prevention www.iasp.into

Statistics Canada. (2002).  Leading causes of death at different ages, Canada, 1999.  Shelf tables. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Langlois, S., & Morrison, P. (2002).  Suicide deaths and suicide attempts.  Health Reports, 13 (2), 9-22.

Statistics Canada. Causes of death, shelf tables. [1997-2001]. Ottawa, ON: Author.

3,4Sstatistics Canada. (2003).  Annual demographic statistics 2002. Ottawa, ON: Author.