September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Distress Centre wants to encourage anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with their mental health in any way, to reach out for help.

Right now, Calgarians and Albertans are struggling. According to the Labour Force Survey, 43,000 jobs in the oil and gas sector were lost in Alberta from December 2014 to May 2016. And in this time, we’ve seen the effect a recession can have through the thousands of contacts we receive at Distress Centre, particularly this year.

In 2016 so far, contacts to our crisis line (calls, chats, emails and texts) have increased by 12.4% compared to 2015. Calls to our 211 information and referral line have increased by 12.4% and financial needs remains the top concern on 211 each month, occurring in 24.7% of 211 calls in 2016.

The effect that losing a job or fearing losing a job can have on your mental health is significant. And as the recession pushes on and people continue to struggle to find work and to make ends meet, the hopelessness that people feel tends to grow. These increased stressors and worries can create circumstances where people start to see suicide as an option.

We’ve heard this pain and feeling of hopelessness on our lines. In 2016 so far, 9.6% of our crisis calls have been suicide related, compared to around 8% in 2015 and 2014. That number is even higher on our online services. 16.4% of our online contacts, including chat, email and text, have been suicide related in 2016, suggesting that people are more comfortable discussing suicide through online means.

Not all these contacts relate to the economy and job loss, but it is clear that the climate in Calgary and Alberta right now is having a significant effect on the mental health of Calgarians.

In our counselling department, intakes have increased by 20.6%. Anxiety, suicide and employment are top issues with our clients, and David Kirby, Clinical Services Manager at Distress Centre, says that the three go hand-in-hand with the recession we’re experiencing.

“We would expect to see suicide as a major concern in periods of a recession or unemployment because they tend to go together,” David explained. “There is no clear understanding of what about unemployment or what about recessions give rise to higher suicide rates. It’s very individual, but ultimately it connects with hopelessness.”

David continued, “At the end of 2014 and 2015, we started seeing people who were worried about losing their jobs, and who were stressed about that. Then we saw people who had lost their jobs and weren’t sure how to recover from that. Now we’re seeing people who have been unemployed for months or a year or more, and who have exhausted their EI benefits and their personal savings and don’t know what else to do. And that hopelessness then starts to rise.”

David said that is often at this time that people begin thinking about suicide.

“The most important thing we can right now do is to encourage people to reach out for support,” said Joan Roy, Executive Director for Distress Centre. “If you or someone you know is struggling right now – with the economy, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, or if you just need someone to talk to – there is always help available. Distress Centre is always here to listen.”

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.