Suicide discourse in Canada : analysis and implications for prevention
Simpson, Brenda Lyn Playford
Master of Arts
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 1999) someone in the world dies by suicide every forty seconds. The age group most likely to opt for suicide at this time is young adults, and among the 105 countries that provided data, suicide is now one of the three leading causes of death for young adults aged 15 to 35. This is a significant change, as it has historically been understood as a greater concern for the elderly population who, until the 1950s, died by suicide in greater numbers than any other age cohort. Among the industrialized countries that provide data to WHO, Canada has me of the highest rates of suicide in the world. The phenomenon of suicide has created controversy, debate, and interest that have resulted in copious amounts of literature being produced from a variety of disciplines. The phenomenon has been moralized, criminalized, and most recently medicalized in attempts to control a behaviour that is deemed unacceptable by ‘civilized countries.’ A Center for Suicide Prevention (SlEC), based in Calgary Alberta, has a database of over 100,000 documents on suicide that can be and are accessed at an average rate of 7,000 requests per month. The subject of suicide has been a personal and professional interest of mine for over two decades. 1 have experienced loss by suicide and was a coordinator for a suicide prevention program in Alberta during the implementation of the Alberta Model that was established by the Boldt Task Force in the early 1980s. Since that time 1 have continued to provide training to the professional community. Additionally, 1 have been a member of several community suicide prevention networks, and 1 have written a program for those bereaved by suicide. 1 have always been intrigued by the apparent reluctance of the political community to commit itself to the amelioration of this phenomenon. The issue in question that continued to present itself was the reluctance for pursuing a more affirmative approach. The analysis that I chose was based on a decision to focus on what these political forces and professional communities are being told vis-à-vis the discourse, in an effort to offer an understanding as to why they respond as they do. The construction of knowledge which is promoted in federal government documents will be analyzed in an effort to expose potential influences and consequences.