I first encountered the great French sociologist Émile Durkheim in my second year of undergrad. I was immediately gripped by his explanation of industrial society and the sense of loneliness it creates in man. But it is another of Durkheim’s intellectual triumphs, the categorization of types of suicidal impulse that we’re going to be working with today. The reason for this is simple: comparison of suicide rates across countries, as my research has found, is practically impossible. Indeed, it’s one of those meaningless numbers that this series is supposed to be combatting. So instead of trying to compare Canada’s dispositions to end it all, let’s instead try to look into why Canadians and which Canadians tend to off themselves. The data on this one is…yeah, you probably already know the drill.
In terms of where Canadians commit suicide, we need only look North. Nunavut is the capital of suicide in Canada, with the issue getting to a point that in 2007 40% of coroner investigations in the territory pointed to suicide as a cause of death. The issue is so extreme that even Pravda has felt the need to call for a state of emergency over the matter. It’s not like Nunavut has a bevy of coroners; bearing witness to children as young as 13 deciding that life isn’t worth living can’t be good for the mental health of the coroner. And it’s not like people have stopped trying since 2007 – attempts are up as recently as 2016, with the victims largely being under 30 years old.
While Nunavut is the worst of the worst (literally) there are other instances of high rates of suicide that we can look at. There is of course the legendary Attawapiskat, where a state of emergency was declared after waves of attempted suicide cases would swamp local medical infrastructure. Prince Selfie, in one of his most egregious acts of inhumanity to date, promised help and has yet to deliver a timetable for the deployment of that help. This co-opting of Indigenous issues for political profit was probably the greatest collective national gaslighting to ever transpire. This place is literally crazy-making, and cakers have been in the business for decades now.
Back to Durkheim now. Émile found that he could explain the rationale behind suicide attempts with one of four schema. The first is egoistic suicide, which stems from a lack of sense of community. Without the social ties that keep us grounded, we develop a depression and a sense of hopelessness that eventually claims us. The second is altruistic suicide, where the suicide is the result of being so overwhelmed by social demands that we kill ourselves in the name of the greater social good. Think martyrdom in the Christian sense and you’ve got the right idea. The third is anomic suicide, which I think the Wikipedia article does a better job explaining that I can.
“It is the product of moral deregulation and a lack of definition of legitimate aspirations through a restraining social ethic, which could impose meaning and order on the individual conscience. This is symptomatic of a failure of economic development and division of labour…People do not know where they fit in within their societies. Durkheim explains that this is a state of moral disorder where people do not know the limits on their desires and are constantly in a state of disappointment.”
Finally, we come to fatalistic suicide, where life is so restrictive and brutal that death is a better option. Prison camps, oppressive dictatorships, slave labor – that’s the kind of “restrictive” we’re on about here.
Looking at these and evaluating the economic and social condition of areas known for high suicide rates in Canada, we can argue a strong case for the very real consequences of the feelings of detachment, disappointment, economic failure, and stagnation that Canada pretends to do anything about before going back to staring at socks and being smug about bullshit.
I’d be lying if I said living in Canada hasn’t gotten me down some bad paths in my life. If you’re struggling here too, know that you aren’t alone. Work on making yourself the best you can be and make an escape plan. You don’t have to stay here. You deserve better.