Despite numerous prevention initiatives, suicide remains the second leading cause of death in youth aged 10-19. One of the major prevention strategies is the introduction of restrictive firearms regulations. For example, Bill C-17 was enacted in 1991 to promote safer handling and storage of firearms through mandatory safety courses for all new gun owners. Examining the suicide rates subsequent to Bill C-17 may shed light on the possible benefit of these regulations as a solution to this major public health issue. Therefore, this paper examines the trends in youth suicide from 1979-1999 and the association with changes in the firearms act in 1991.
Age-specific suicide rates for youth between 15-19 years and rates by methods of suicide were calculated based on data from Statistics Canada for the years 1979-1999. Time series analyses were conducted.
Although the overall rates did not change from 1979-1999 in youth aged 15-19, there was a substantial change in the methods used. In particular, the rates of suicide by firearms dropped from 60% to 22% while suicide due to hanging/suffocation increased from 20% to 60% in this age group over this period of time.
These results suggest a possible association between changes in the firearms act in 1991 and the methods used by youth to complete suicide. However, the overall rates of suicides did not change over this same period. These trends underscore the need for broader prevention interventions that do not solely focus on methods of suicide but rather, their underlying causes.