B.C. coroner's report reveals a troubling divide between urban and rural mental-health challenges

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      A new report on suicide in British Columbia includes good news but makes clear there’s a deep divide in how urban and rural communities experience and respond to mental-health challenges.

      “There were 572 deaths by suicide in 2017, down slightly from the previous three years, which all reported more than 600 deaths by suicide,” begins a media release that accompanied the July 17 report.

      Across the province, the suicide rate in 2017 was 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people, down from 12.4 the previous year, 12.9 in 2015, and 13.7 the year before that.

      But the B.C. Coroners Service statistics show the decline was unequal and that in many areas, suicide rates remain quite high.

      In Vancouver, the rate of death by suicide declined from 14.3 per 100,000 in 2014 to 10.9 in 2015, 10.9 again in 2016, and then to 10.7 in 2017.

      In the East Kootenays, for example, the rate declined, but from 21.1 in 2014 to 18 in 2017. And in Kootenay Boundary, the rate declined from 23.8 in 2014 to 20.7 in 2017.

      In B.C.’s northeast, the rate actually increased. It was 24.8 in 2014 and then 26.8 in 2017.

      Similarly, the rate of death by suicide in Thomson Cariboo increased from 6.1 in 2014 to 18.6 in 2017.

      The rate was lowest in Richmond, where it was recorded as 7.5 in 2017.

      B.C. Coroners Service

      The statistics suggest that suicide rates are lower in B.C.’s cities and higher in less-densely-settled areas with smaller populations.

      If you or someone you know is experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts, some options for resources include talking to a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, psychologist, or counsellor. If in crisis, contact 911 or go to a hospital immediately. 

      The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. offers 24-hour phone and online distress services (as well as community education). The Crisis Line Association of B.C. (1-800-784-2433) provides 24-hour service for individuals across the province.

      Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) is a national service for children and teenagers.

      If you’re more-comfortable texting, Kids Help Phone offers a 24-hour service you can connect with by sending the word “HOME” to 686868. Crisis Services Canada offers a similar service you can reach by texting 45645 or by chatting online at crisisservicescanada.ca.