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EDITORIAL – There’s cause for hope in opioid stats but not for suicides

An editorial Mel Rothenburger.

STATISTICS ARE IMPERSONAL but they tell stories. Sometimes they’re cold and cruel, sometimes hopeful.

Three recent reports from the B.C. Coroners Service illustrate this reality. One, released Friday, shows there were 35 per cent fewer fatal drug overdoses — most involving fentanyl — in June compared to a year ago.

In the Interior Health Authority, there were 196 overdose deaths last year, and 60 from the beginning of this year through June. That’s lower than all the other health regions except for the sparsely populated North.

All this gives reason for optimism amid suggestions that strategies to fight the opioid crisis are working.

Now let’s look at another report, this one released last month. Of 572 suicides province-wide in 2017 — the most recent year for which there are stats — the IHA experienced 130. That was the second highest in the province, and a higher rate per 100,000 than any other region except the North.

In Kamloops, there were 16 suicides in 2017, a number that has held steady for the past 10 years.

A panel of experts says suicides are the leading cause of deaths among kids and youth in B.C.

In other words, what we’re doing isn’t working.

Everybody talks about the opioid crisis, as well we should. But nobody talks much about the suicide crisis. In 2017 there were almost half as many suicides as there were fentanyl-related deaths.

While opioid deaths seem to have spiked and hopefully are on the decline, suicides are not. So while we need to keep talking about drugs, we need to talk a lot more about suicide, and make it as urgent an issue as drug overdoses.

That means raising its profile and putting a lot more resources into doing something about it.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6879 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – There’s cause for hope in opioid stats but not for suicides

  1. I agree on both counts.

    Both the opioid crisis and the suicide crisis, however, will not be completely, or adequately addressed until we begin to honestly examine those influences and forces within our society that drive people to these desperate extremes. While “harm reduction “ and saving lives are, obviously, the first objective, we can’t stop there.

    Addressing the underlying contributors and causes is not easy, or pleasant. We will never honestly do so if we continue to cling to outdated and discriminatory attitudes about mental health, race, weakness of character and the necessity to “soldier on” in the face of adversity.

    As with most of the other serious and even existential issues facing humanity at this point in history, we will not make meaningful headway unless and until we begin to discard and dissolve those “us and them” perspectives that now dominate so much of our discourse and interaction with those who, for whatever reason,, we perceive as sufficiently different to belong in the “them” category.

    As Bob Marley once said : The world will only know peace when the love of power is replaced by the power of love.

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