Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 24, 2001
Quebec's high teen suicide rate
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
A coroner's report issued Nov. 16 by Dr. Pierre Gagne indicates that the rate of teen suicide in Quebec is the highest in Canada, with an alarming spike in teenage female suicides.
In 1989, there were 84 teen suicides in Quebec, only six, or seven per cent, of them females. In 1999 there were 106 teen suicides in Quebec - 22, or 21 per cent, female.
Quebec's suicide rate reportedly stands at 20.7 teen suicides per 100,000 people, with Saskatchewan close behind at about 20 per 100,000, both double the national average of about 10 per 100,000.
"I have to tell you the truth, I have no idea (why)," Dr, Gagne is quoted saying. "To me, it's a total mystery."
Or, perhaps not so much of a mystery. In Quebec more than in other parts of Canada traditional sexual mores and family values are in retreat. Even Gagne suggested that the rise of suicides among teenage girls in Quebec could be partly due to a societal shift giving girls more freedom at home.
"Freedom" is an understatement. In Maclean's magazine's 1998 year-end poll, 57 per cent of Quebecers affirmed that it is OK to let teenage heterosexual sons and daughters in steady relationships sleep with their girlfriends and boyfriends at home, compared with 18 and 16 per cent, respectively, in the rest of Canada.
According to data cited by Walter Schneider of Equal Parents of Canada, children from single-mother households (compared to two-parent households) are disproportionately afflicted with a variety of distempers, including being five times more likely to commit suicide.
However, a recent report by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women says Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of single mothers in the country, heading 20.4 per cent of families with children. The Nova Scotia teen suicide rate is closer to the national average, so single-motherhood isn't the whole story in Quebec.
Also likely significant is that Quebec is now the most irreligious province in Canada. Virtually all studies that compare religious and non-religious persons find that conservative Christians, who are inclined to affirm traditional moral standards and family values as well as having the spiritual compass Christianity provides, are happier, enjoy better mental and physical health, and have lower rates of depression and anxiety than the irreligious. Time magazine reported that non-churchgoers commit suicide four times more often than regular attendees.
The idea that sexual activity is an acceptable form of recreation, outside formally sanctioned and ordered relationships (that is, marriage), is a recipe for personal unhappiness and social breakdown. The irony, as the surveys show, is that sexual "freedom" isn't even temporarily satisfying.
A 1998 Royal Bank/Angus Reid poll found that people in supposedly "free" common-law relationships, which have become increasingly common in Quebec over the past 30 years (and half of which end within five years), are the most unhappy of all demographic groups studied, closely followed by separated and divorced individuals.
Marriage is the basic Christian family value, and the survey found that married people were happier than singles by an 18-point margin (and by extension will have happier, better-adjusted children).
It is pertinent to note that the supposedly Church-tyrannized Middle Ages, suicide was almost nonexistent, while in our supposedly free and liberated utopia of relative morality, suicide is pandemic.
Even as recently as the 1950s, teen suicide was virtually unheard of. Kids and families in that era lived in a much more ordered social environment. The operative question is: In which period - then or now - is/was childhood and adolescence a happier, healthier, better adjusted, and safer experience?
Having lived through both - one as a child and the other as an interested observer of my own children's encounters with their chronological peers and popular culture, I would answer an unhesitating and emphatic "then."
Immoral free will choices have inevitable consequences that explain many social ills, and true freedom, paradoxically, can only truly exist in an environment of accountability, which implies authority to enforce that accountability. Nowhere is that more true than in the basic building block of functional societies, the traditional family supported by religious faith.
Tragically, I suspect that Quebec is a bellwether for what we can expect throughout North American culture if the trends toward humanist secularization, sexual permissiveness and the decline of the traditional family continue.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.