If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, this is a mental health emergency, and you are deserving of help. Call the Mental Health Crisis Line at 811 or call your local mental health and addictions office to speak to a counselor or visit the Find Support page of this app.
Most often, people experience suicidal thoughts when they have lost hope and feel helpless. They want their pain to end, and they may see no other way out. Suicide can also be an impulsive act that follows the use of substances. In some cases, people with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia may hear voices that tell them to harm themselves.
Suicide can be prevented. Most people who have suicidal thoughts, or who have attempted suicide, do not die by suicide. Many people can recover from these experiences and live full and meaningful lives.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) identify Suicide as the act of intentionally causing one’s own death and is often related to complex stressors and health issues. Suicide occurs across all ages, incomes, ethnicities and social factors.
People who are at risk for suicide may:
● show a change in mood or behaviour
● show a sense of hopelessness and helplessness
● express the wish to die or end their life
● increase substance use
● withdraw from people and activities that they previously enjoyed
● experience changes in sleeping patterns
● experience significant changes in routine
● have a decreased appetite
● making peace with friends and/or family
● give away personal items
● feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
The thoughts and feelings listed above may not mean that someone is at immediate risk of dying by suicide. They may be a sign that someone you know is having challenges with their mental health and need support.
Risk factors can be broken down into different areas of our lives.
Individual risks factors include:
● Previous suicide attempt
● Mental illness, such as depression
● Social isolation
● Criminal problems
● Financial problems
● Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
● Job problems or loss
● Legal problems
● Serious illness
● Substance use disorder
Relationship risk factors include:
● Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect
● Family history of suicide
● Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss
● Sexual violence
Environmental Risk Factors Include:
● Barriers to health care
● Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal problem
● Suicide cluster in the community
● Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking
● Easy access to lethal means among people at risk (e.g. firearms, medications)
● Unsafe media portrayals of suicide
There are some individual characteristics and things we can do in our environment that may help protect people from suicidal thoughts and behavior. There is not as much research about these protective factors as there is about risk factors, however identifying and understanding them is very important.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) identify that the risk for suicide may be reduced when “protective factors” are present. In general, protective factors can help a person to recover or “bounce back” in the face of stress and adversity.
Protective Factors Include:
● positive social supports
● a sense of responsibility for others, such as having children in the home (except when the person has postpartum depression or psychosis) or having pets
● positive coping skills
● a positive relationship with a medical or mental health provider
● self-efficacy (a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations)
● a religious belief that suicide is wrong.
- Listen to them and take them seriously. Don’t judge or minimize their feelings. Remind them that their feelings are valid. Ask if they want to die or if they just want the pain/struggle to end. Be positive and hopeful and remember that suicide can be prevented.
- Ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide. Don’t be afraid that you will put the idea in their head. It may be a relief for them to talk about it.
- Ask if they have a plan. Depending on their answer you may want to limit their access to lethal means, such as medication, knives or firearms.
- Ask them to rate their suicidal feelings on a scale of one to 10. Regularly ask them to tell you where they are on the scale, so you can assess if things are getting worse.
- Let them know help is available and that the cause of their suicidal thoughts can be successfully treated.
- Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
- Encourage them to seek help from a doctor or mental health provider and offer to help with this if they would like.
- Keep the contact information of the nearest emergency department, crisis line and your health care providers close at hand;
- Make a safety plan with them. Who will they call if their feelings get stronger? Who can stay with them to keep them safe? Make a list of phone numbers of people and services they can call if they feel unsafe. Avoid leaving the person alone if they are in crisis.
- Seek support for yourself. It is important that you don’t carry this burden alone.
- Call the Mental Health Crisis Line at 811 or call your local mental health and addictions office to speak to a counselor or visit the Find Support page of this app.