- 1,013 women died by suicide in Canada in 2013 compared to 3,041 men (Statistics Canada, 2017).
- 141 women died by suicide in Alberta in 2013, compared to 394 men (Statistics Canada, 2017).
- Women attempt suicide two to three times more often than men (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).
- Suicide attempts happen 10 times more often than suicide deaths in women (Chaudron & Caine, 2004).
- Teen girls have been dying by suicide more often than previously. This is attributed to an increase in the use of lethal means – principally suffocation – where a suicide attempt can more likely result in suicidal death (Skinner & McFaul, 2012).
- In 2010 in Alberta, women accounted for 58% of 1,833 hospital admissions and 61% of 5,053 ER visits for attempted suicide or self-inflicted injuries and young women 15-19 were admitted most often(Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research, 2012).
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide attempts and other suicidal behaviours.
- Depression disproportionately affects women (Chaudron & Caine, 2004): they are two times more likely than men to suffer from depression.
- Women are more likely than men to experience physical and mental health problems in addition to depression (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013).
- 70% of antidepressant prescriptions are given to women in the US.
Major depression is a psychiatric disorder that includes several symptoms. The two main symptoms are:
- Having a depressed mood, this includes feeling worthless, thinking about death, and being overwhelmed by sadness.
- Losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
“Protective” factors can help prevent a woman from thinking about suicide.
- Women who are not pregnant die by suicide 2 times more often than those who are.
- Motherhood and a strong maternal bond with children and other dependents
- Willingness to seek help for emotional and mental heath issues
- Women seek help far more often than men.
- Support from family and friends
- Women tend to rely more heavily on family and friends for support in times of crisis.
- Choice of less lethal means of suicide
- Women usually choose “less lethal means” like prescription drugs, when attempting suicide (but, as noted above, younger women are choosing more lethal means).
(Beautrais, 2006; Chauldron & Caine, 2004)
When “risk” factors are present, women are at a higher risk for considering suicide.
- Pregnancy Issues
- While pregnancy is a protective factor, those issues related to pregnancy (miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, abortion) can increase risk for depression and suicide in women.
- Postpartum depression (PPD)
- PPD affects around 15% of women, and is experienced after giving birth and for up to one year after (Pearlstein, et al., 2009).
- Perinatal period
- The “perinatal period” is the time during pregnancy and the first year after the birth of a child.
- In Ontario, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in the perinatal period: 1 in 19 deaths of women during this period were due to suicide.
- The majority of women who die during this period have an affective or anxiety-related disorder (as opposed to a psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia) (Grigoriadis, 2017).
- Domestic violence
- Partner violence can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is also a risk factor for suicide.
- Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.
- Women experience partner violence 9 times more often than men (Devries, et al., 2011).
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Sexual abuse in childhood is a major factor for future suicidal behaviour and can also be a source of PTSD.
- Self-harm, substance abuse and high-risk behaviours (like unprotected sex) are some unhealthy strategies that women may use to cope during times of abuse.
- Unhealthy coping strategies ultimately undermine feelings of self-worth, cause depression and put women at greater risk for suicide (Joiner, et al., 2007).
- 1 in 5 women are victims of rape (attempted or completed, in childhood or adulthood) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).
- Eating disorders
- Including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- Body image issues
- Body self-image issues can be caused by pressures to obtain unrealistic physical expectations.
- Major surgery, such as a mastectomy, can cause body self-image issues to arise in women, and can precipitate depression (Wasserman, 2016)
Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research. (2012). Suicide/self-inflicted injuries in Alberta. Retrieved from http://suicideinfo.ca/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=p9 tRgQ37n5s%3D&tabid=508
Beautrais, A. (2006). Women and suicidal behavior. Crisis, 27(4), 153-156.
Canadian Mental Health Association (British Columbia). (2013). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.cmha.bc.ca/documents/depression-2/
Center for Disease Control and Research. (2009). Suicide: Facts at a glance. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/Suicide-DataSheet-a.pdf
Center for Disease Control and Research. (2012). Sexual violence: Facts at a glance. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-datasheet-a.pdf
Chaudron, L. and Caine, E. (2004). Suicide among women: A critical review. Women’s Health, 59(2):125-134.
Devries, K., Watts, C., Yoshihama, M., Kiss, L., et al. (2011). Violence against women is strongly associated with suicide attempts: Evidence from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women. Social Sciences & Medicine, 73(1), 79-86.
Grigoriadis, S., Wilton, A., Kurdyak, P., Rhodes, A., VonderPorten, E., Levitt, A., Cheung, A. & Vigod, S. (2017). Perinatal suicide in Ontarion, Canada: A 15-year population-based study. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(34). Retrieved from http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/34/E1085.full
Joiner, T., Sachs-Ericsson, N., Wingate, L., Brown, J., Anestis, M. & Selby, E. (2007). Childhood physical and sexual abuse and lifetime number of suicide attempts: A persistent and theoretically important relationship. Behavior Research and Therapy, 45(3), 539-547.
Pearlstein, T., Howard, M., Salisbury, A. & Zlonsky, C. (2009). Postpartum depression. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 200(4), 357-364.
Skinner, R. and McFaul, S. (2012). Suicide among children and adolescents in Canada: trends and sex differences, 1980–2008. Canadian Medical Association Journal, doi: 10.1503/ cmaj.111867. Retrieved from http:// www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2012/04/02/ cmaj.111867.full.pdf+html82-285
Statistics Canada. (2017). Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/hlth66d-eng.htm
Wasserman, D. (2016). Eating disorders and suicide. In Wasserman, D. (ed), Suicide: An unnecessary death (pp.95-100). New York: Oxford University Press.
The Women’s Centre, Calgary
This is a toolkit resource. It provides statistics, facts, and other important information regarding the topic.
What it’s good for:
- Providing you with an introduction to a topic and need-to-know information
Suggestions for use:
- Medical clinic and social service agency brochure displays
- In an adult learning classroom, at presentations, at a workplace, at schools for parent councils
- Anywhere a brief introduction to the topic is needed