The Causes Of Suicide In Canada Sociology Essay Example
The Causes Of Suicide In Canada Sociology Essay Example

The Causes Of Suicide In Canada Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3159 words)
  • Published: July 21, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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Social issues refer to matters that directly or indirectly affect a significant number of individuals or the entire society. These are regarded as problems that give rise to conflicts and threats within a community.

Self-destruction in Canada is seen as a complex societal problem with various underlying causes. The suicide rate is influenced by several aspects of society, resulting in 3,743 deaths due to self-destruction in 2007. Males have a mortality rate for suicide that is four times higher than females, and individuals between the ages of 15 and 44 make up 73% of hospital admittances related to attempted self-destruction.

Quebec consistently has the highest suicide rate in Canada since 1990, indicating additional factors may be at play despite similar underlying causes across all states. The prevalence of suicide negatively impacts Canadians, especially those in Quebec, making it a significant societal issue. The main contribu


tors to Canada's high suicide rate encompass economic, psychological, and sociological factors. Economic aspects involve unemployment and income rates' influence. Psychological reasons pertain to changes in individuals' cognitive environment as well as the increasing rate of depression among Canadians.

The higher suicide rate in Quebec compared to other Canadian provinces is caused by sociological factors such as the rise of Canadian divorces and a change in societal values. These factors are influenced by psychological aspects, including a search for identity and a loss of sense of community.

Historical Description

The suicide rate worldwide is significant, with over one million people taking their own lives each year. In Canada, societal norms and values underwent significant changes after WWII. This included a decline in traditional nuclear families, an increase in illicit psychotropic substance use and abuse, an

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a shift in the perception of women's roles. Minority groups like homosexuals also gained more visibility during this time. Additionally, the postwar baby boom led to a larger birth cohort that needed integration into society, particularly within the workforce. Despite economic growth and prosperity, there was higher unemployment due to an influx of women entering the workforce as societal norms changed.
(Farrow, 1993, 509)

According to Sakinofsky (1998, 41), the 'Quiet Revolution' in the sixties led to an increase in modernism and secularism, a shift in values, the abandonment of religious restraint, and the promotion of anomy. Cormier and Klerman (1985, 114) discovered that Quebec has had the highest suicide rate compared to other states since 1990. The rate nearly doubled from 10.6 per 100,000 residents in 1971 to 18.1 per 100,000 in 1993. Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of premature death overall and the primary cause among men aged 20 to 39. Leenaars et al. (67) revealed that Canada's current suicide rate is at17.9 for males and5.4 for females with an average rate of11.6 per100k residents.

Suicide is a major problem in Canada, being one of the top 10 causes of death and the second leading cause for individuals under 35 years old (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2009, 1). It is defined as a deliberate act of self-harm influenced by various factors and seen by the person as the most effective answer to a distressing circumstance (Leenars et al., 1998, 31). This issue has a detrimental impact on the Canadian population.

To effectively analyze the fluctuating suicide rates in Canada and the disproportionately high rate in Quebec, it is essential to consider Pettigrew's three degrees

of analysis for societal issues. This paper will explore all three degrees: micro, meso, and macro. The micro degree entails examining individual jobs; the meso degree centers on interpersonal relationships; and the macro degree scrutinizes the impact of the issue on an entire community or civilization. The paper will comprise three main statements, each addressing the issue from a distinct perspective. In summary, this paper will be organized around these three subjects.

There are three main branches of study that will be discussed in this paper. The first is economic sciences, which focuses on constructs like recession, unemployment, and income. The second is psychological science, which encompasses concepts like depression, disaffection, environment, behaviorism, and cognitive acquisition in individuals. The third branch is sociology, which explores constructs such as communities, societal norms and values, individuality, and societal support. The initial statement of this paper will address the economic factors that contribute to suicide.

This paragraph will primarily discuss the macro and meso levels. The second statement, discussing the psychological causes of self-destruction, will include the micro, meso, and macro levels. Additionally, the final statement focusing on sociological causes will encompass all three levels. The sources used for this paper are mainly peer-reviewed and specifically focus on self-destruction, economics, statistics, psychology, and sociology. Three main books that will be referenced are 'Le suicide gold Quebec' by Marie-France Charron; 'Suicide in Canada' by Isaac Sakinofsky et al.; and 'Making sense of self-destruction' by David Lester, PhD. Consequently, this paper will examine two theories: Durkheim's theory of self-destruction and the critical-mass theory.

Durkheim's theory argues that the suicide rate is influenced by two societal facts: the degree of attachment individuals feel within

a society and the level of external restraint imposed on them. This theory identifies four types of suicidal behavior: egocentric, selfless, alienated, and fatalistic self-destruction. The upcoming 2nd and 3rd statements will delve into Durkheim's theory, exploring psychological and sociological constructs related to egocentric and selfless self-destruction in order to explain the discrepancy in societal integration. Additionally, the critical-mass theory will be employed to discuss a potential explanation for Quebec's higher suicide rate compared to other states.

This theory suggests that when a specific behavior becomes widespread in a society, individuals may adopt and adhere to it, eventually transforming it into a trend or craze within that society.

The Influence of Income and Unemployment

One factor to consider is the economic impact of fluctuating income levels and an unstable unemployment rate in Canada. These factors can contribute to an increase in the suicide rate. The variability in incomes affects individuals differently, making certain groups more vulnerable to committing suicide. In Canada, males have a higher suicide rate than females, with 22.3% for males and 5.8% for females.

Furthermore, individuals with lower incomes experience a suicide rate that is 48% higher compared to those with higher incomes (Charron, 1981, 77). This can be explained by the fact that people with low incomes face difficulties meeting their needs, leading to financial struggles and viewing suicide as a viable solution. Additionally, it is worth noting that countries with high suicide rates surprisingly have higher average incomes than those with low rates. This suggests that unemployed individuals may feel even more miserable when surrounded by a society experiencing unprecedented prosperity (Sakinofsky, 1998, 41). Therefore, the high suicide rates observed in prosperous countries can

be attributed to the challenge faced by unemployed or low-income individuals trying to fit into a society where most people have average or high incomes, as seen in Quebec. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between unemployment and high suicide rates in Canada. The prolonged joblessness resulting from economic recessions has left young people without defined roles in our modern society.

(Farrow, 1993, 509) Living in an unstable environment and experiencing subsequent unemployment can pose challenges for individuals in finding their place and integrating into society. As a result, feelings of anomy may arise. Multiple studies have shown a strong connection between unemployment and increased rates of self-destruction. This correlation has been observed in broad studies on overall unemployment rates as well as specific case studies.

(Platt, 1984, 99) When examining the micro level, individuals impacted by a struggling economy and confronting long-term unemployment are more prone to experiencing thoughts of suicide. (Dooley et al., 1989, 348) Furthermore, Quebec has observed a positive relationship between suicide rates among individuals aged 15 to 44 and the rate of unemployment. Hence, this elucidates why young men in Quebec have encountered the most significant surge in suicide rates relative to other nations. (Cormier and Klerman, 1985, 112) Unemployment can serve as the decisive factor driving certain individuals to commit suicide. Moreover, unemployment often acts as an additional stressor that intensifies the susceptibility to suicide when combined with other factors. (Platt, 1984, 100) Consequently, the higher rates of suicide in Canada and particularly in Quebec compared to other countries can be attributed to income disparities that render low-income individuals in a vulnerable position.

The suicide rate may increase in parallel with fluctuations

in the unemployment rate.

Psychological Causes: A Combination of Factors

From a psychological perspective, the second cause suggests that Canada's suicide rate has been increasing due to a noticeable rise in mental disorders triggered by substance abuse and changes in the learning environment. Dr. Leenaars, a psychologist specializing in mental and public health in Windsor, Canada, highlights that factors contributing to suicidal behavior can encompass drug abuse, suicidal tendencies, issues concerning sexual identity, and learning disabilities (Leenaars et al., 1998, 283). The significant surge in illicit drug use and mental disorders throughout Canada has predominantly had an adverse impact on the country's suicide rate. According to Statistics Canada, there has been a substantial increase in police-reported drug offenses since 1993.

According to a report by Statistic Canada (2009), the incident rate per 100,000 population in 2007 reached a level not seen in three decades, with 305 incidents. This increase is linked to children growing up in households characterized by substance abuse and dysfunctional communication, which raises their chances of engaging in self-destructive behavior (Bostik et al., 2007, 78). The surge in Canada's incident rate can be attributed to the rising drug abuse in specific regions. Furthermore, the rise in mental disorders like depression may also contribute to higher rates of self-destruction. When individuals perceive their self-worth as dependent on others' approval and lose that approval, it can lead to feelings of worthlessness and depression (Bviroeck et al.).

A recent study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada revealed that there is a correlation between suicide and various mental disorders including major depression, marginal personality disorder, and substance abuse. The rise in mental disorders, particularly depression, has led to

an increase in the suicide rate nationwide. The study's focus was on young men and discovered that approximately 11% of the workforce and 16% of adult females in Canada will encounter major depression at some point in their lives (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2003). Furthermore, certain regions like Quebec experience isolation which can negatively impact an individual's cognitive environment. This isolation may contribute to the higher suicide rate and aligns with Durkheim's theory on suicide - specifically his egocentric type which suggests that social integration plays a role in causing suicide.

Leenaars et al. (1998, 128) found that being isolated from populated areas can lead to withdrawal behavior, clinical depression, and an increased risk of suicide. According to Julie Campbell, the president of the Association Quebecoise de Prevention du Suicide, rural areas in Canada and Quebec have higher suicide rates compared to urban areas due to factors such as isolation, limited job opportunities, and restricted access to social services (Scott, 2010,1). The prevalence of drug abuse and mental disorders also contributes to the rising suicide rates in both regions. Additionally, the lack of social integration with peers caused by isolation in certain rural areas can potentially result in suicidal thoughts.

Values and their Influence on Suicide Rates

The impact of values on suicide rates is substantial. Societal elements, such as civilization, norms, and organization within communities, significantly affect the Canadian population in all provinces. This influence is particularly evident in Quebec where higher suicide rates are attributed to these factors compared to other provinces (Lester, 1992, p32). It is clear that cultural differences play a significant role in the occurrence of suicidal behavior including variations in child-rearing

practices, values, and societal organization. Two primary societal factors have an impact on the rate of suicide.

The rise in divorce rates in Canada over the past five decades has had a significant impact on suicide rates. Unstable family relationships caused by higher divorce rates have contributed to an increase in suicide attempts. Single individuals, those cohabitating without marriage, and those who are divorced or separated are more prone to suicidal thoughts compared to married individuals (Sakinofsky et al., 1998, 75). Additionally, unmarried individuals often feel lonely and choose to isolate themselves due to having less social support than those in committed relationships. Consequently, individuals with limited social support have approximately three times greater likelihood of experiencing thoughts of self-harm compared to their counterparts with ample support.

Research conducted by Sakinofsky et al. (1998, 75) and Lester (1992, p75) indicates that individuals who are socially isolated and have ambivalent relationships are more prone to suicidal ideation. Furthermore, Lester suggests a strong correlation between the suicide rate and the level of closeness within an individual's family, as evident from their parents' marital status - whether they are married or divorced. The incidence of completed suicide is at its lowest among married individuals but increases among widowed individuals, reaching its highest point among those who are divorced.

In a study carried out by Smith et al. (1988,79), it was revealed that Statistics Canada reported one-third of Canadian couples experienced divorce in 2007. Particularly in Quebec, the proportion escalated to 44.8%.

The numbers provided are valid for couples who have lived together for 30 years or less (Statistic Canada, 2007,1). Consequently, the increase in divorced families could have contributed to a rise

in Canada's suicide rate. This may also explain why Quebec has a higher rate compared to other countries, as almost half of its population is reported as divorced. A change in societal norms and values might have a negative impact on the suicide rate. Since the arrival of baby boomers, Canada has observed a decline in religious beliefs, particularly in Quebec where Catholicism prevails, unlike most other countries. Variations in suicidal behavior have been discovered to be connected to religious affiliation.

According to Carson and Butcher (1992, p154), individuals who see themselves as less spiritual than others tend to have greater thoughts of self-destruction. On a larger scale, the decline of faith as a major influence in Quebec's society has led to a loss of community. This lack of strong social connections and a sense of belonging is a contributing factor to suicide rates (Scott, 2010,1). Religion is an integral part of a culture, and when cultures change too quickly, those without adaptive skills are left behind. Youth suicide and parasuicide are symptoms of the social breakdown that occurs during rapid cultural transitions (Leenaars, 1998, 55). Durkheim's theory of suicide further asserts that these disruptive societal changes lead individuals to feel disconnected and experience anomic conditions due to a lack of regulation (Rakoff, 1983). Additionally, due to significant cultural differences from the rest of Canada, Quebec's population may feel isolated and question its identity.

Julie Campbell, president of the Association Quebecoise de Prevention du Suicide, suggests that people in Quebec have a slightly weaker sense of individuality compared to people in other states. The Ministry of Social Affairs in Quebec supports this claim by stating that the

suicide rates among French-speaking Canadians are more than 33% higher than among those who speak English or another language (Charron, 1981,75). The critical-mass theory, developed by T.C Schelling, may be applicable to Quebec's situation in explaining its high suicide rate. This theory postulates that in a society, certain behaviors reach a critical frequency where many people start to imitate them as a trend or fashion. Therefore, the significant increase in Quebec's suicide rate can be attributed to the dominant presence of suicide within its society.

The self-destruction rate in Canada is influenced by various factors, both directly and indirectly. Quebec, in particular, has the highest self-destruction rate in the country. This can be attributed to several reasons, including the prevalence of unstable relationships such as divorced couples and the shift in values, such as a decrease in faith. These factors contribute to the rise in suicide rates. Moreover, Quebec's higher self-destruction rate compared to other states may be attributed to its population's pursuit of individuality.


In conclusion, the self-destruction rate in Canada is influenced by factors such as economics, psychology, and sociology. Differences in income levels and the fluctuating unemployment rate are important contributors to Canada's increased self-destruction rate. Additionally, the increase in mental disorders like depression and the impact of the cognitive environment also play a role in this rate.

Furthermore, changes in values and norms in Canadian society since WWII have had a significant impact on the country's suicide rate. This is particularly evident in Quebec, where religion is losing its main role in the state. Additionally, Quebec is the only province where French is the official language, which isolates them and leads to a loss

of identity among its society. In order to decrease the suicide rate in both Canada and Quebec, it is essential to implement improved and expanded suicide prevention programs. Moreover, suicide helpline services should be easily accessible to all Canadians, regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas.

Given the direct or indirect impact of Canada's suicide rate and Quebec's average rate on individuals and society as a whole, it is crucial to examine these solutions.

Work Cited

  1. Beck, A.T., A.J Rush, B.F. Shaw, and G. Emery. 1979. Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford Press.
  2. Bostik, Katherine E. ; Everall, Robin D. (2007).

The British Journal of Guidance and Counselling published an article titled "Mending from self-destruction: adolescent perceptual experiences of attachment relationships" (Vol.35 Issue 1, 76-96, 18p). Additionally, Carson, R.C., and J.N Butcher wrote a book called "Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life" in 1992.

New York: Harper-Collins.

  • Charron, Marie-France. (1981). Le suicide gold Quebec. Quebec, QcA : Gouvernement du Quebec
  • Cormier H., and G. Klerman. 1985.'Unemployment and Male Labour Force Participation as Determinants of Changing Suicide Rates of Males and Females in Quebec.' Social Psychiatry 20: 109-14
  • Dooley, D., R.
  • Catalano, K. Rook, and S. Serxner. 1989. 'Economic emphasis and Suicide: Multilevel analyses. Part 2: Cross-Level Analysiss of Economic Stress and Suicidal Ideation.' Suicide and Dangerous Behavior 19 (4) : 337-51

    Farrow, J.A.

    1993. 'Youth Alienation as an Emerging Pediatric Health Care Issue: Update.' American Journal of Diseases of Children 147: 509.

  • Leenaars, Antoon A, Wenck, Wenckstern, Susanne, Sakinofsky Isaac, Ronald J. Dyck, Kral, Michael, Bland, Roger C. (1998). Suicide in Canada. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto.
  • Lester David. (1997).
  • Making

    sense of self-destruction. Philadelphia, PA: The Charles Press

  • Platt, S.D. 1984.'Unemployment and suicidal behavior.' Social Science and Medicine 19: 93-115
  • Public Health Agency of Canada. 2002. A Report on Mental Illness. hypertext transfer protocol: //
  • Rakoff, V.M.
  • In 1983, the article "Anomic self-destruction: The Persistence of a job" was presented at the VII World Congress of Psychiatry in Vienna, discussing the spectrum of antidepressant effect. The Government of Canada published a report in 2007 titled "Explication Suicide Canada" which can be accessed through the website of Statistique Canada. Additionally, on February 1, 2010, Scott wrote an article on an undisclosed topic.

    According to The Gazette, the self-destruction rate in Quebec has decreased. A study by Smith, J.C., Mercy, J.A., and Conn, J.M. found that marital status is correlated with the risk of self-destruction.

    American Journal of Public Health 78: 78-80, 1988

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