Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad
Suicide rate holds steady

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 19/02) - There were 10 suicide deaths in the Northwest Territories last year -- the same number as the previous year, according to the NWT's chief coroner.

Percy Kinney released the NWT Coroner's Service 2001 annual report this month. It indicated 10 of the 70 deaths last year in the territory were self-inflicted.

That's the same number as in 2000. In 1999, there were 16 suicides in the NWT. Kinney said the high numbers show "a trend over a period of time."

"There's a number of initiatives that are being done for suicide prevention and intervention in the Northwest Territories, but what this tells me is it isn't working or at least, even with those efforts, the numbers continue to rise -- and that causes me significant concern," said Kinney.

Of the 10 suicide deaths, 70 per cent were males and the greatest number of deaths were in the 15-to-19 and 30-to-34 age groups. Seven of the suicide victims used firearms, two victims overdosed and one died by hanging.

Kinney said suicide is such a perplexing problem that one specific reason for the high numbers is impossible to pinpoint. Thus, solutions are difficult to find.

"There are so many things at play.

"You've got lower education levels, you've got alcohol abuse, you've got things that play into it but it's a very complex problem and therefore the solutions are very complex," he said.

Education is the key, as far as Kinney is concerned. He said he believes counselling for high-risk individuals and preventative educational programs are in order.

"I think that we have to continue the initiatives that we're doing now and we have to do even more," he said.

Alcohol was a factor in four of the suicide deaths and involved in a third of all accidental deaths. Three of those were from alcohol poisoning.

Kinney said one of the most significant numbers in the report is the ratio of the deaths involving alcohol.

"That's extremely high when you look at the ratio, so it again tells me that alcohol abuse is a problem and alcohol use while engaging in high-risk behaviour remains a problem," he said.

Kinney classifies high-risk behaviour as being "anything that's high risk on it's face," such as driving while intoxicated.