RE: Suicide rate in Alberta leaps 30% in wake of mass oilpatch layoffs
December 8, 2015

Distress Centre would like to provide some context and clarification on the article released by CBC on December 7th on the 30% increase in suicides in Alberta.

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health has confirmed that there has been a 30% increase in deaths by suicide compared to 2014. This statistic is very alarming and we do not want to downplay the seriousness of that reality.

However, we feel the need to point out that suicide is an incredibly complex issue that can be caused by a variety of factors, as pointed out by David Kirby, Clinical Services Manager at Distress Centre, in the article.

Simply reporting the number of deaths doesn’t tell us enough to draw conclusions. Demographic details like how these numbers break down by age group, in what areas of the province, by gender, by ethnicity all tell us a very different story as risks and rates of suicide differ in all these factors. Having this type of information would allow us to discern some of the contributing factors, but it still does not determine causation.

“These stats are very concerning, and they are a start to helping us understand the big picture of how suicide in Alberta is changing,” says Joan Roy, Executive Director of Distress Centre, “But at the human level, suicide is devastating to individuals, families and communities. The most important thing we can do is to encourage people to reach out, both those who are suffering and those who have lost someone to suicide. We need to make sure that supports are available in the moment they need them.”

While we do expect that the economic situation in our province will factor into the picture of suicide in Alberta, this is generally an impact we expect to see over time, not necessarily in the immediate time frame of layoffs.

We must also consider other serious events in Alberta; we are now two years post-flood and research shows that the majority of psychosocial impacts occur in the second year post-disaster. This is another important factor when considering why suicide rates may be higher this year.

Our crisis contacts are up 4% this year compared to last year, but calls related to suicide are holding steady at 7-8% of total calls, comparable to what was seen in 2014.

All that said, we do not want to downplay the effect the economy has had on the mental well-being of Calgarians and Albertans. Mental health related concerns are the most often cited issue to our crisis services, with stress often relating to financial worry and layoffs. We are pleased that the provincial Mental Health Review is currently underway. We are optimistic that this will lead to changes in the accessibility and availability of mental health services.

We want to emphasize that there is help and support available to anyone who is struggling; with the economy, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, or if you just need someone to talk to.

Call Distress Centre 24 hours a day at 403-266-HELP (4357). Chat online with us at from 3-10pm MST daily. Access our professional, short-term counselling by calling our crisis line and asking for an intake to counselling. Call 211 24/7 to get referrals to community, government and social service organizations. All of our services are free of charge.