City suicide rate stays high
The adult suicide rate in Penticton has been stubbornly high – reaching nearly three times the national average – in recent years, according to data obtained from the BC Coroners Service.
Information provided to The Herald in response to a freedom of information request shows 11 adults took their own lives here in 2016, which works out to a rate of about 33 suicides per 100,000 per people.
That compares to a national rate of 11.5 in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available from Statistics Canada.
In general, most suicide victims are single men, between the ages of 50 and 59, who own firearms, according to Dr. David Klonsky, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of B.C.
He was reluctant, however, to draw any conclusions about the cause of Penticton’s seemingly high suicide rate because the numbers obtained by The Herald are relatively small and don’t speak to gun ownership.
Firearms are the most lethal method of suicide, explained Klonsky, so if Penticton has a high rate of gun ownership that could help explain the data.
“Fortunately, most suicide attempts do not result in death, and most people who attempt suicide and survive do not go on to die by suicide. So it’s not the case that if someone has decided to die by suicide that they will find a way even if their first attempt doesn’t work or is blocked,” he added.
“The survival rate is over 90 per cent. In other words, more than 90 per cent of people who make a potentially lethal attempt do not go on to die by suicide, so keeping people alive is really important.”
Requests for comment from the Interior Health Authority and the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association were both declined.
Meanwhile, eight people took their own lives in Penticton through Aug. 31, putting the city on track for 12 suicides by the end of 2017 – the most in at least seven years.
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit was concerned by the data and said issues surrounding mental health – plus associated problems of addictions and homelessness – are a priority for the city’s elected officials.
“Council will continue to advocate for programs and resources for local service providers who work hard to support those who suffer from poor mental health, addictions and lack of appropriate housing,” he said in a statement, which noted council met last month with the new provincial minister of mental health regarding such matters.
Jakubeit added that council will later this month consider a request for support from the YES Project, which is working to build a youth resources centre in Penticton.
“The efforts of the YES group will save lives and it is our responsibility as a community to do our part to help provide a lifeline for our youth,” the mayor said.
“There are no easy solutions, but if you want to make an immediate impact, donating to the YES Project will help.
The Herald also requested statistics from the BC Coroners Service indicating how many youth had taken their own lives in each of the past six years, but received back only partial data.
There were no confirmed youth suicides here from 2011 through 2013, but the BC Coroners Service refused to release data for the years since, claiming it’s required by policy to mask such information for privacy reasons if the number is five or less.
The Herald asked two weeks ago to be referred to that specific policy, but received no response. The Herald will appeal the decision not to provide the data.
To reach a crisis centre near you, call 1-800-SUICIDE. Online chat is also available at www.youthinbc.com.
An RCMP officer approaches a man who climbed atop the roof of the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in July while suffering through a mental-health crisis.The man was later taken into custody without incident.