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Alberta's Suicide Rate Spikes As Unemployment Soars

Alberta could have as many as 654 suicides this year.
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Alberta's suicide rate has grown almost 30 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

The data, which comes from the chief medical examiner's office, shows Alberta could have 654 suicides this year, CBC News reports. There are approximately 21,700 deaths in Alberta per year.

Alberta's suicide rate has always been slightly higher than the national average — the most recent data from 2011 puts the province at 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people, while the country was at 10.1. But the sharp increase may be due to the high levels of joblessness in the province.

"It says something really about the horrible human impact of what's happening in the economy with the recession," counsellor David Kirby told CBC News. Kirby noted that demand for the Calgary Distress Centre's counselling services have gone up almost 80 per cent.

Homicide rates have also increased over the past year, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Lack of resources

The high demand for mental health services has put pressure on Alberta's already at-capacity programs.

Approximately 25 per cent of calls to Edmonton's Support Network distress line go unanswered, Global News reported earlier this year.

In Calgary, Metro News found the increased number of mental health patients were putting pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms.

The province is currently working on a mental health strategy, which is expected to be released sometime before the end of 2015.

Find meaning in more than just work

Career counsellor Dr. Laura Hambley says the key to staying healthy and happy during a difficult time of unemployment is to find meaning outside of work and remember that the difficult times are temporary.

We really encourage people to revisit their values in life. What’s really important?" Hambley told the Calgary Herald. She suggests taking time for physical and mental health, as well as relationships with family and friends.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please contact a 24-hour distress line in your area.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported that calls to the Calgary Distress Centre had gone up by 80 per cent; in fact, it is demand for the centre's counselling services that has increased by that rate.

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