Toronto Public Health has released a comprehensive report on suicide and prevention strategies in Toronto.
The grim start to the week on Toronto’s transit system could be prevented in the future if council adopts a series of suicide-prevention measures, the city’s public health department says in a new report.
Between 7 p.m. Monday and 11 a.m. Tuesday, there were three suicide attempts, including one fatality, on the subway system, Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Brad Ross confirms.
The horrifying incidents shut down parts of the subway lines for a combined 225 minutes, causing major delays for thousands of passengers.
Toronto Public Health, in a new report, states that suicide attempts and deaths on the subway system “can have serious impacts not only in terms of morbidity and mortality, but also in the economic cost to transit system operations and psychological impacts on the driver, passengers and witnesses.”
Called Suicide Prevention in Toronto, the document takes a broader look at suicide in Canada’s largest city, “one of the most important and least talked about population health issues.” It will be considered by the Board of Health at its meeting Monday.
The report includes 12 suicide-prevention recommendations that range from asking council to provide funding to the TTC to install platform edge doors in all of its subway stations, old and new, to a call for increased public awareness and education programs.
“Many efforts need to be part of the solution; no one intervention will be effective on its own to reduce the overall burden of suicide in Toronto,” the report says.
Used and shown to be effective in 35 major cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Paris, the barriers line up perfectly with the train doors and open when the subway comes to a halt at the platform.
The TTC has incorporated the infrastructure for them in the new stations on the Spadina subway extension to York region. At a cost of $5 million to $10 million per station, the cash-strapped TTC doesn’t have the money.
By no means is public transit the most common means of death by suicide in Toronto.
Between 1998-2011, 912, or 29.5 per cent of all suicide victims, died by hanging/strangulation/suffocation, followed by 745 people, or 24.1 per cent, who died after jumping from a high place. Six hundred and nine, or 19.7 per cent, of the total suicide deaths in Toronto were by overdose.
Two hundred and thirty eight people, or 7.7 per cent of victims, ended their lives by jumping or lying in front of a subway, train or car, followed by asphyxia (226 people, or 7.3 per cent), shooting (148 people or 4.8 per cent) cutting/stabbing (95 or 3.1 per cent) drowning/ hypothermia (73 or 2.4 per cent) and fire/burns/electrocution (34 or 1.1 per cent.)
In 2009, suicide claimed 243 lives in Toronto, four times the number of people who died from homicide, and three times the number who died in motor vehicle crashes.
That year it was the 17th leading cause of death overall, comparable to cause of death by cancer of pancreas and cirrhosis and other liver diseases, the report says.
The report also found:
Males experience higher rates of death than females
The risk of suicide is distributed across all ages, young and old.
Police and emergency responders are especially vulnerable. Since April 2014, 17 first responders have killed themselves in Ontario, including nine police officers.
Mortality rates by suicide have, however, remained stable in Toronto and Ontario over the past decade.
One in four people who died by suicide in Toronto had attempted previously attempted to end their lives.
There is also a “seasonal trend” in suicide in Toronto. The greatest risk occurring in the summer, with nearly 1.5 times the risk of suicide than in November and December.