5.4 SELF-HARM & SUICIDE

MENTAL ILLNESS

Key Messages

Thoughts of self-harm or suicide are often a trigger for seeking support and accessing services.

The local rate of emergency department visits for self-harm is consistently lower than the Ontario average.

The rate of suicides in Lambton County fluctuates above and below the Ontario average rate of 8-10 per 100,000 people per year.

While there have been more deaths due to suicide among Lambton residents between 2010 and 2015 compared to the previous 5-year period, over 90% have been among adults.

“I have lots of friends who self-harm. I help them. I’ve helped 15 of my friends stop, I’ve helped them gain friends and helped them understand their reasoning for self-harm could be overcome. Adults can’t always help; you can’t wait for us to turn to them.”

– Student, grade 9

In many cases, Lambton residents who had accessed mental health services first did so in response to suicidal thoughts, self-harm or suicide attempts. Some came to the realization themselves, while others received encouragement from family or friends.

“I have looked for help in regards to mental health issues and what prompted it is survival. When you know what you are doing is not enough to keep you going you look for answers.”

– Community member

“What prompted me to look for help was being low enough to want to cause harm to myself. I had had enough and didn’t know what to do anymore and all I really wanted to do was cut. I was very upset and my mom suggested I call the CMHA helpline and speak with someone.”

– Community member

“My suicidal ideation hit an all-time high in university, and it was actually my classmates that encouraged me to seek help. So I did and that is how I built the strong support system I now have.”

– Community member

“Five years ago I had a traumatic event occur and it caused me to take a step back and realize I was struggling. I was making impulsive decisions and found myself masking the trauma with alcohol. I had thoughts of suicide. I went to my family physician and was referred to my psychiatrist from there.”

– Community member

Self-Harm

In any given year, there are between 120 and 180 visits to the emergency department for self-harm. The rate of ED visits for self-harm in Lambton County is consistently lower than the Ontario average rate (Figure 7) and ranks low compared to other Ontario health units (Figure 8). While variation occurs from year to year, there has been no clear increasing or decreasing trend over time between 2007 and 2016.

Figure 7: Annual rates of self-harm-related ED visits
Figure 8: Rate of self-harm related ED Visits by public health unit, 2014-2016

About half of emergency department visits for self-harm are by youth under 25 years. The number of emergency department visits for self-harm peaks in the 15-19 age range. Between 2014 and 2016, ED visit rates for self-harm were lower or similar to Ontario rates across the lifespan (Figure 9). In Lambton, females accounted for 60% of ED visits for self-harm between 2014 and 2016, but accounted for 75% of visits among those 15 to 19 years old.

Figure 9: Rate of self-harm-related ED visits, by age, 2014-2016

Suicide

Between 2004 and 2015, the number of deaths due to suicide in Lambton County that were confirmed by the Chief Coroner’s Office of Ontario has ranged from 7 to 24 (Figure 10). The rate of suicides in Lambton County fluctuates around the Ontario baseline rate of 8-10 per 100,000 population, with higher than average rates occurring in 2010, 2014 and 2015 (Figure 11).

While there have been more deaths due to suicide among Lambton residents between 2010 and 2015 compared to the previous 5-year period, most have been among adults. There were 7 deaths confirmed among Lambton youth less than 19 years old between 2010 and 2015, representing 7% of all suicide deaths during that time period.

Figure 10: Number of suicide deaths
Figure 11: Rate of suicide deaths

*These data should be considered preliminary and are subject to change as remaining cases are closed by the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario.

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COMMUNITY TREATMENT SERVICES