High suicide rates for Canadian men in their 50s, new report finds

by | Nov 10, 2015 | News

Photo Courtesy of www.torontodistresscentre.com

Photo Courtesy of www.torontodistresscentre.com

By: Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs

Financial concerns and a culture of silence create a complex relationship between middle-aged men and mental health, says a new report. 

As a result, researchers across North America are turning their attention to the largest demographic of those who take their own lives – men in their 50s.

Why has the rate of suicide increased faster for this demographic than other age groups? 

Experts look to the 2008 economic crisis as a leading cause for the suicide rate spike.

“One explanation for the rising suicide rates focuses on the detrimental effects [of] the economic downturn of 2007–2009,” according to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,

That U.S. study, by New Jersey researchers Katherine Hempstead and Julie Phillips, found that “the effect has been particularly pronounced for the middle-aged and for men.”

Hempstead argued that priority has traditionally gone to researching suicide trends within the elderly community instead of middle-aged male suicide.

Substance abuse as just one explanation, but said that a shift in how society views alcohol and drug addiction as a disease will help address some of the issues, Hempstead said.

In Canada in 2011, the suicide rate for men in their 50s was the highest of any age group at 24 per 100,000, Statistics Canada reported.

For Dr. Marnin Heisel, a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on the assessment and treatment of depression and suicide risk among older adults, what’s concerning is the lack of mental health prevention and promotion.

“A lot of the work that we do is with people already struggling,” said Heisel, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario.

Mental health promotions need to enhance psychological resiliency, he said. The goal is to build men’s ability to grow in the face of challenges and help individuals at the point of transitions.

Melanie Rose, a crisis worker and counselor with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Muskoka, Ont., told Humber News that despite an abundance of research on suicide triggers, Canada lacks research on treatment and prevention. 

“While the Canadian Mental Health Association is working on preventative measures, our biggest challenge is getting men to come in. Advocating for loved ones to reach out and referring fathers and brothers will help begin intervention,” she said.

Rose noted that men are less likely to seek treatment and that the lack of communication makes researching various treatments challenging.