Mental Health, Suicide and Stigma

Suicide ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada in 2009, but among young people aged 15 to 34 it was the second leading cause, preceded only by accidents.

During 2009, there were roughly 238,000 deaths in Canada, 3,890 of which were attributed to suicide.

The suicide rate for men in Canada is more than three times higher than the suicide rate for women. During 2009, 2,989 men committed suicide, representing a rate of 17.9 per 100,000. Among women, there were 901 suicide deaths, representing a rate of 5.3 per 100,000.


It is not well known that almost as many men die by suicide in Canada every year as die by Prostate Cancer. Suicide generally speaking is far too often not talked about and the silence that surrounds these tragic deaths only contributes to the stigma that people with mental health problems are burdened by. However this is beginning to change. Thanks to the very public initiatives of some of our biggest corporations and foundations, conversations are beginning to occur and attitudes are beginning to shift.

Capitalizing on the outstanding successes that the Movember Foundation has had in raising awareness surrounding prostate cancer, one of its new strategic goals focuses on staying mentally healthy, living with and beyond mental illness, with specific aims that: (1) Men are mentally healthy and take action to remain well, (2) when men experience mental illness they take action early and (3) men are not treated differently when they experience a mental illness. Their priorities are focused on prevention, early intervention and to destigmatize mental illness.

In 2012 the Movember Foundation started the Canadian Men's Health Network (CMHN) as an initiative to address critical men's health issues today and in the future. The first initiative of this network is men's mental health.

In 2010 Bell announced that it would be contributing $50 million to mental health related initiatives over the next five years. The Bell Mental Health initiative supports an extensive range of programs to enhance mental health in every aspect of Canadian life. The four pillars of this initiative are: (1) workplace mental health, (2) research, (3) community care and access and (4) anti-stigma.

One of the key pillars of Bell’s Mental Health Initiative is anti-stigma. As part of Bell’s efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness, the Bell Let’s Talk awareness campaign has already begun to engage Canadians in the dialogue around mental health. Through the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, Bell provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations, hospitals, and agencies focused on improving access to mental health care and who are making a positive impact in their communities.

These initiatives have been successful in putting mental health on the public conscience and, hopefully, given Canadians the confidence they need to take action in real-life situations.

You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health

If your friend had a broken leg, or he or she had just come out of hospital after an operation, you probably wouldn't think twice about asking how they were. Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so being able to talk about it is important to us all. Sometimes, just asking someone how they are is all it takes to let someone know you're still thinking about them and make a big difference to how they're feeling.

How to help someone with mental health problems

If someone you know is experiencing mental health problems or needs urgent support, there are lots of services that you can go to for help.

You can also find out more about:

  • particular mental health diagnoses from Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and the Canadian Mental Health Association
  • the simple, everyday ways you can support someone who has a mental health problem
  • how stigma and discrimination can affect people living with mental health problems like depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, personality disorders or schizophrenia

As an issue which has been buried in shame and secrecy for many years, it is vital that mental health remain a public priority beyond any awareness campaign. We have made great strides in engaging governments and the corporate community to provide education and resources. We need to continue down this road so that no one is left behind.