At the age of 15, Laurissa Rose Degraw attempted to take her own life for the first time.
Over the next five years, she tried four more times.
She made it very clear that this is how her life would end,” says her mother, Aimee Huitema. “She said it to me. She said it to her social worker. She said it to her doctors that she would take her life one day.”
More than 5,800 Canadian children and youth have died by suicide during the past 13 years across Canada — some as young as 8 years old, according to data compiled by a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation from coroners’ offices in all provinces and territories except Nunavut.
Suicide is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death for young people in Canada.
In 2005, 146 people between the ages of 8 and 24 died by suicide in Ontario, according to coroner data. In 2016, the figure was 181.
Degraw was 20 when ended her life on a summer evening in July of 2016, hours after she returned home from a week at the family’s Lake Huron cottage.
“We had an amazing few days at the beach with my parents and my younger daughter Lily. Everything was perfect,” says Huitema.
But upon their return home, Degraw told her mother she wanted to go for a walk after dinner. She would never return.
In what was at least her fifth attempt at suicide, she hanged herself. Police found her body a two-minute walk from her house in Ingersoll, Ont.
Despite dedicated government mental health campaigns aimed at young people over the past two decades, youth suicide rates have remained steady. Some provinces have seen increases in recent years.
In Saskatchewan, 36 young people killed themselves in 2005; that number jumped to 54 last year. In British Columbia, the number rose to 114 from 78 a decade earlier. In Nova Scotia, the figures more than doubled in that same time frame.
Deaths are only recorded as suicide if the intent is clear. Experts estimate that for every completed suicide, between 10 and 100 suicides are attempted.
A 2016 survey of 1,319 Canadian teens aged 13 to 18 conducted by Kids Help Phone found one in five seriously considered suicide.
The coroners’ data does not break out ethnicity or race. But Health Canada data shows suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadian Aboriginal youth, where the rate of suicide is five to 11 times higher than for non-Indigenous populations.
Maybe not so much a ‘Health Crisis – but a ‘Whats The Point To This Life’ crises.