TORONTO – A new study suggests that one in five Canadian teens has seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year.
The survey by Kids Help Phone found that 22 per cent of more than 1,300 respondents thought about taking their own life. Almost half of them had also formulated a plan.
“That is concerning,” Alisa Simon, vice-president of the national help line’s counselling services, said of the findings released Thursday.
“What we really want to do is to be thinking about what’s the conversation we need to be creating in Canada. What are the prevention opportunities now?” said Simon.
“Do we teach young people from a very young age to talk about suicide, to talk about mental health, that reaching out for support is critical? And what to do if a friend comes to them in need.”
A key step would seem to be “breaking down the stigma, breaking down the barriers” to seeking help, noted Simon, adding that the survey did not delve into why kids had considered suicide.
Girls appeared twice as likely to have seriously considered suicide as boys — 67 per cent girls versus 33 per cent boys — while almost half of the teens who had considered suicide did not speak to anyone about it.
Data also revealed that teens reporting suicidal thoughts tended to experience violence at home or at school (27 per cent), concerns about body image (75 per cent), or addictions to drugs and alcohol (23 per cent). These kids were at least twice as likely to seriously consider suicide compared to the general teen population.
A primary indicator seemed to be whether a teen had searched the web or social media about suicide — more than half of teens who had considered suicide (55 per cent) also searched online for information.
“That is not necessarily a negative thing,” added Simon.
“Young people are often going to find support, they’re often going to find others that anonymously they can connect with potentially who understands what they’re experiencing….
“There is no longer a line for young people between their online and off-line worlds and it is misleading to believe that somehow the Internet is the cause of all sorts of problems.”
But understanding how youth connect, as well as the barriers they face to seeking help, is crucial to helping them cope with myriad stresses, she said.
Heading back to school is an especially stressful time for many teens.
“We often see an increase in contacts to Kids Help Phone around back-to-school when young people start feeling quite nervous about the fact that maybe they’re changing schools because they’re moving up a grade, maybe they’ve experienced bullying or some sort of challenges in school that they’ve had a respite from over the summer.”
The Teens Talk 2016 report is based on a national online survey in May of 1,319 teens aged 13 to 18, statistically representative of age and gender across each province.
Some other findings:
— 22 per cent of teens surveyed had considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months;
— of teens who considered suicide, 46 per cent thought about how, when and where they would attempt suicide and 47 per cent didn’t speak to anyone about it;
— 69 per cent of girls and 31 per cent of boys reported body or self-image concerns.