Suicides In Alberta Soar In Wake Of Canada’s Oilpatch Depression

Over the past year, we have extensively chronicled the tragic story of Alberta – Canada’s once booming oilpatch – disintegrate slowly at first, then very fast, into an economic and financial wasteland:

And, in the last article in this sad series describing the Alberta “bloodbath”, we said that the biggest casualty of Canada’s recession has been the local commercial real estate market, where office vacancies are about to surpass the aftermath of the (first) great financial crisis.

We were wrong: the biggest casualty of Canada’s recession, which unless oil rebounds strongly soon will follow Brazil into an all out depression, are people themselves. As CBC reports the suicide rate in Alberta has increased dramatically in the wake of mounting job losses across the province.

According to the Canadian media, the most recent data only goes to June, but according to the chief medical examiner’s office, 30 per cent more Albertans took their lives in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.

That’s how bad Canada’s economic recession is: the real casualties are no longer metaphorical economic objects, but the very people who until recently enjoyed comfortable lives only to succumb to an unprecedented collapse in the local economy.

Here are the statistics as reported by CBC:

  • From January to June 2014, there were 252 suicides in Alberta.
  • During the same period this year, there were 327.
  • If the trend continues, Alberta could be on track for 654 suicides this year.
  • In an average year, there are 500, according to the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

“This is staggering,” said Mara Grunau, who heads the Centre for Suicide Prevention.  “It’s far more, far exceeds anything we would ever have expected, and we would never have expected to see this much this soon.”

What is taking place is hardly surprising: in this year of mass layoffs in the energy sector, calls to the Calgary Distress Centre have changed tone and have become more frequent, says counsellor David Kirby.

Unfortunately, when one can no longer slide the tragic reality under the rug of double seasonal adjustments and media propaganda meant to boost confidence despite economic collapse, human tragedy is what always follows.

“For me it says something really about the horrible human impact of what’s happening in the economy with the recession and the real felt effect, the real suffering and the real struggle that people are experiencing,” he said.

Kirby says demand for counselling services has increase by 80 per cent — and the problems people are struggling with are more complex. “There might be substance abuse issues. There might be imminent financial collapse,” he said.

“Anxiety, depression. Relationship conflict, maybe concurrent domestic violence. So there are many more things that people are trying to juggle I think at the same time.”  Nancy Bergeron, who has answered distress centre phone lines for a few years, says this year has been the hardest.

“People are just at wit’s end and they’re contemplating it, right?”

Why? Simply because the price of a commodity has dropped to a third of what it was just over a year ago, and the shocking impact has been a paralysis of every aspect of financial, economic and social life, first in Alberta, and soon everywhere else across Canada

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