The Centre for Suicide Prevention has released a summary of the cost of suicide in Canada, as well as information on how it is calculated and the cost-effectiveness of suicide prevention programs. The summary also includes a brief discussion of methodological issues, including the difficult issue of acknowledging the savings that may be realized due to suicide.
The summary discusses the most frequently used types of variables in calculating the cost of suicide and suicidal behaviour, including direct costs (e.g. hospitalization, funeral costs, treatment after attempted suicide), indirect costs (associated with productivity or earnings losses due to permanent disability or premature death), and intangible/human costs, including pain, grief and suffering, and lost quality of life. Intangible costs are the most difficult to calculate, and there is no agreement as to how or if these costs should be assessed. Methodological issues cited include problems with data collection and choice of data to be included, and whether the costs associated with prior or ongoing conditions, such as depression, should be included.
The estimated direct and indirect cost of suicide and self-harm in Canada is $2,442 million for 2004. For comparison, the document also gives recent cost estimates for Ireland, Scotland, the USA and New Zealand.
Although the evidence is limited, the cost-effectiveness of proven suicide prevention and/or mental health promotion programs appears to be similar to other public health interventions. Investing in suicide prevention is not free, but some evaluative research has made strong arguments in favour of intervention, including general suicide education and peer support programs, national suicide prevention strategies, and education programs for general practitioners on recognizing depression.
See “The Cost of Suicide,” SIEC Alert #74, Centre for Suicide Prevention, June 2010, available at www.suicideinfo.ca.