Suicide means that someone ends their life on purpose. However, people who die by suicide or attempt suicide may not really want to end their life. Suicide may seem like the only way to deal with difficult feelings or situations.
Who does it affect?
About 4000 Canadians die by suicide every year. Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among young people, but men in their 40s and 50s have the highest rate of suicide. While women are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than men, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Suicide is a complicated issue. People who die by suicide or attempt suicide usually feel overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, desperate, and alone. In some rare cases, people who experience psychosis (losing touch with reality) may hear voices that tell them to end their life.
Many different situations and experiences can lead someone to consider suicide. Known risk factors for suicide include:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicidal behaviour
- A serious physical or mental illness
- Problems with drugs or alcohol
- A major loss, such as the death of a loved one, unemployment, or divorce
- Family violence
While we often think of suicide in relation to depression, anxiety, and substance use problems, any mental illness may increase the risk of suicide. It’ s also important to remember that suicide may not be related to any mental illness.
Major warning signs of suicide spell IS PATH WARM:
Ideation: thinking about suicide
Substance use: problems with drugs or alcohol
Purposelessness: feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living
Anxiety: feeling intense anxiety or feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
Trapped: feeling trapped or feeling like there is no way out of a situation
Hopelessness or Helplessness: feeling no hope for the future, feeling like things will never get better
Withdrawal: avoiding family, friends, or activities
Anger: feeling unreasonable anger
Recklessness: engaging in risky or harmful activities normally avoided
Mood change: a significant change in mood
Though not all suicides can be prevented, some strategies can help reduce the risk. All of these factors are linked to well-being. These strategies include:
- Seeking treatment, care and support for mental health concerns and building a good relationship with a doctor or other health professionals
- Building social support networks, such as family, friends, a peer support or support group, or connections with a cultural or faith community
- Learning good coping skills to deal with problems, and trusting in coping abilities
When a person receives treatment for a mental illness, it can still take time for thoughts of suicide to become manageable and stop. Good treatment is very important, but it may not immediately eliminate the risk of suicide. It’s important to stay connected with a care team, monitor for thoughts of suicide, and seek extra help if it’s needed. Community-based programs that help people manage stress or other daily challenges can also be very helpful.
Thoughts of suicide are distressing. It is important to talk about your experiences with your doctor, mental health care team, or any other person you trust. They can help you learn skills to cope and connect you to useful groups or resources. Some people find it helpful to schedule frequent appointments with care providers or request phone support. Other things that you can do include:
- Call a crisis telephone support line
- Connect with family, friends, or a support group. It can be helpful to talk with others who have experienced thoughts of suicide to learn about their coping strategies
If you’re in crisis and aren’t sure what to do, you can always call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room.
Some people find a safety plan useful. A safety plan is a list of personal strategies to use if you think you are at risk of hurting yourself or ending your life. You can create a plan on your own, with a loved one, or with your mental health care team. Your plan may include:
- Activities that calm you or take your mind off your thoughts
- Your own reasons for living
- Key people to call if you’re worried about your safety
- Phone numbers for local crisis or suicide prevention helplines
- A list of safe places to go if you don’t feel safe at home
If you’re concerned about someone else, talk with them. Ask them directly if they’re thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide won’t give them the idea. If someone is seriously considering suicide, they may be relieved that they can talk about it.
If someone you love says that they’re thinking about ending their life, it’s important to ask them if they have a plan. If they have a plan and intend to end their life soon, connect with crisis services or supports right away. Many areas have a crisis, distress, or suicide helpline, but you can always call 9-1-1 if you don’t know who to call. Stay with your loved one while you make the call, and don’t leave until the crisis line or emergency responders say you can leave.
The two most important things you can do are listen and help them connect with mental health services.
Contact the Suicide Crisis Helpline at #988 or access support online at https://988.ca/