Report finds mood disorders, suicidal thoughts more prevalent in Waterloo Region
Adam Burns, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 11, 2019 11:01AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 11, 2019 6:38PM EDT
The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and mood disorders are "significantly higher" in the Region of Waterloo than in Ontario as a whole, a new report has found, but one expert says more research is needed to understand why.
The report, submitted to a regional council committee on Tuesday, also found that rates of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for intentional self-harm were "consistently and statistically significantly higher" in the region from 2006 to 2017.
In 2017, for example, there were 1,109 emergency room visits due to intentional self-harm in the Region of Waterloo -- about 200 per 100,000 people, compared 139.4 per 100,000 in the province.
The prevalence of mood disorder diagnosis was 12.2 per cent in the region from 2015-16, while in Ontario the rate was 8.7 per cent. The prevalence of suicidal thoughts was 15.3 per cent in the region, but 10.7 in the province.
Suicide rates are increasing slightly over time, both in the province and locally, but the report cautioned the "considerable statistical variability" that "warrants monitoring into the future."
Despite the alarming numbers, the head of one organization that contributed to the report said it's not clear what's causing the discrepancy.
"The data doesn't speak to the 'why,"' said Elisa Brewer-Singh, the executive director of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, adding that addressing those questions is the goal of the next phase of research.
"Phase two is to answer some of those unknown questions that come out of this report -- gaps to the research -- (by) speaking to individuals with lived experience."
That work will be continue to be done with the other agencies that contributed to this report, including the Region of Waterloo's public health department and the non-profit Centre for Community Based Research, said Brewer-Singh.
The report, titled "A Community Profile on Suicide and Self-Harm in Waterloo Region," found that lesbian, gay, bisexual and Indigenous people had "by far" the highest rates of suicidal behaviour -- often up to four times the overall rate in the Region of Waterloo.
Brewer-Singh said another demographic that is increasingly showing up at the emergency room are young girls between the ages of 10-19.
"We also want to recognize that any suicide or suicide attempt is one too many, and we want individuals to continue to reach out for help," she added, pointing out that numerous resources are available for those in need.
In the Region of Waterloo, that includes a 24-hour crisis line at 1-844-437-3247.