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Suicide Awareness

What Is Suicide?

Suicide is when someone ends their own life on purpose. It is not an accident. It is a permanent solution to a problem in the person’s life. This problem is temporary. It will not last forever. Suicide is irreversible. A person cannot change their mind after they have killed themself. There is no taking it back

Myths About Suicide

There is a lot of incorrect information and judgement about suicide. We do not really talk about it. Suicide has a stigma which is a negative belief around something. It’s like a thundercloud that follows the word. Think of how we speak about suicide.

When someone dies by suicide, we typically say someone has committed suicide. The word committed sounds negative and is often associated with people committing a crime. Sometimes, some people will say “completed suicide.” Completed sounds positive. Someone completes a project, assignment, school, etc. Suicide is neither good nor bad. It is tragic. The phrase “died by suicide” is used to be neutral and nonjudgemental.

FACT – Most people who are suicidal have a mental illness.

More than 90% of people who are suicidal have a mental illness. Depression accounts for at least 50% of people who are suicidal.

Not everyone who has a mental illness is suicidal. There are many people with a mental illness who are well and have learned how to manage their disorder. Mental illnesses simply put them at a higher risk to be suicidal especially if the mental illness is untreated. There are many factors which contribute to suicide.

FACT – Talking about suicide with kindness and compassion is important and can help people to seek support.

Suicide is typically not something people talk about openly. Some people believe that talking about suicide will cause the person to think about killing themself, but that is not true. They will not become suicidal if you are speaking with kindness and compassion. If you mention suicide to someone who may be at risk, it can help make sense of what is going on in their head. 

When you are talking about suicide, it is important to be empathetic and kind. Sometimes, when we are uncomfortable, we make jokes or laugh about a challenging topic, but it is important to act with empathy.

FACT – Sometimes people talk or joke about suicide as a way of coping with their thoughts of suicide or to see if anyone is listening.

There is no one size fits all for mental health concerns. Some people do not say much. Their actions speak for them. Others talk about suicide or joke about suicide. This could be their way of asking for help. Joking about suicide might be easier than asking for help.

FACT – Suicide is not illegal in Canada.

Suicide was decriminalized in 1972 in Canada. Euthanasia (medically assisted suicide) was decriminalized in 2015.

FACT – Unfortunately, this is untrue. Approximately 700 000 people worldwide die by suicide each year, which is one person every 40 seconds. 

Unfortunately, this is untrue. Approximately 700 000 people worldwide die by suicide each year, which is one person every 40 seconds. 

FACT – Suicide is about ending the pain.

Some people think people who are suicidal are selfish. That is not the case. As mentioned above, most of the people who are suicidal have a mental illness. Their brain cannot think clearly to see other options. They cannot see any other option to end the pain. Struggling with a mental illness can make it difficult to concentrate and think clearly. Their brain is telling them they are doing everyone a favour if they killed themself. It is telling them it is the opposite of selfish. It is selfless. 

FACT – There is hope and help.

There are people to help. One of the cornerstones to suicidality is feelings of hopelessness. While the person may feel overwhelming hopelessness, there is hope. There is help. There are resources which can help them feel better.

What Are the Warning Signs?

To remember the warning signs, think of the acronym PASES.

P- Physical Appearance

A- Actions

S- Self-Talk

E- Emotions

S- Situations

**This is not a complete list. These are examples**

Physical appearance refers to a change in how the person looks.

This could include:

  • Change in hygiene (showering more or less)
  • Wearing the same clothes
  • Looking tired or worn down
  • Slouching
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Red puffy eyes from crying
  • Change in style of clothes or hair

Actions are the things they are doing.

Their behaviour has shifted in some way. They are not acting like themself. There is something different.

This could include:

  • Recklessness
  • Withdrawing
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Isolating or cancelling plans
  • Increased substance use/abuse
  • Fixation on death (drawing, talking about, writing about death)
  • Giving away possessions
  • Promiscuity
  • Saying heartfelt goodbyes instead of the usual “See ya!”
  • Brilliant and sparkling mood after threatening suicide (this could mean they have made the decision to kill themself, so they feel relief)
  • Shifting mood
  • Poor concentration
  • Avoiding or skipping work or school

Self-talk is how the person is speaking about their situation or themselves.

If someone is not doing well, oftentimes you will hear it in how they speak. They may start speaking poorly of themselves.

They may say something like:

  • “You’ll be sorry when I am gone.”
  • “You won’t have to worry about me after the weekend.”
  • “It will all be better soon.”

Emotions can feel overwhelming and all-encompassing when you are not doing well.

The person may display or say that they are feeling:

  • Sad
  • Overwhelmed
  • Lonely
  • Disappointed
  • Guilty
  • Angry
  • Burdensome
  • Disconnected

 

The person can feel like they are filled with uncomfortable emotions.

Situations are the things going on in a person’s life.

These stressors begin to build and build until it feels like there is no escape.

Situations which can indicate someone might not be doing well or needs support could be:

  • Relationship break-up (romantic or friendship)
  • Abuse
  • Failing at something
  • Job loss
  • Death of a loved one
  • Previous suicide attempt (especially if they have not received help after the attempt)
  • Moving
  • Mental health concerns
  • Financial issues

These signs may not necessarily mean the person is suicidal. They are signs that a person needs help and support. Warning signs can be tricky, too. Someone may do something out of character one time which can be easy to dismiss or forget about, but if you feel like something is going on with your friend or someone you love, check-in and make sure they are doing alright. If they need additional support, help connect them with a trusted adult who can get them help.

What to Do if You Are Suicidal?

Thinking about death and mortality is natural but thinking about ending your life is different. Thinking about killing yourself is scary and overwhelming. It can feel like there is no help or hope, but there is help. There is hope.

So, what do you do if you are thinking about killing yourself?

  1. Acknowledge that you are not doing well. It is not an easy thing to admit. Just remember, we cannot be tiptop all the time. It is okay not to be okay. It is about seeking help.
  2. Talk to someone. Seek help from someone you trust whether it be a loved one, doctor, or mental health professional. You deserve to feel better. It is important to take care of yourself and feel better. Telling someone you are thinking about killing yourself can be very difficult, but it is important. There is the misconception of the “strong silent type,” but reaching out takes great strength. You deserve help, and you deserve to feel better.

    When you are reaching out for help, tell a person you trust. If the first person you tell does not listen to you, tell someone else. Remember, if someone does not listen to you, that does not reflect your value. Their reaction reflects their prejudices, mental state, or ideals. For some people, saying the words out loud can be very difficult. It makes it feel more real. If you are having a hard time saying the words out loud, write it down and give the note or letter to the person you trust. This way you will still be able to communicate to the person how you are doing without having to say it out loud.

    Once you have talked to someone you trust, seek professional help, like your school counsellor/social worker, spiritual leader, elder, family wellness worker, counsellor, doctor, or Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868. The person you tell may be able to help you by connecting with help too. You deserve help! That is exactly why those services exist.

  3. Practice self-care. Self-care is taking time to care for yourself and your health and wellness. Make healthy choices to support your mental health. Take some time for yourself to feel better, to unwind, and to take care of yourself.

 

 

In addition to seeking professional help, there are many things you can do to help support your mental health. Check under the tips for wellness or the wellness sessions for ideas about how to take care of yourself.

Help Lines:

Kids Help Phone

Toll-Free 1-800-668-6868

Text 686868

Live Chat www.kidshelpphone.ca

ConnecTeen

1-403-264-TEEN (8336)

Woods Homes

Crisis 24 hours local 1-403-299-9699

How Do You Help Someone Who Is Feeling Suicidal?

When someone tells you they are thinking about killing themself, it is scary. That is a terrifying thing. It is easy to become caught up in emotions. Many people fear saying the wrong thing. We often want to try to fix our friend’s problem or counsel them, but that is not your job. Your main job is to tell someone and connect your friend to help.

The following are some guidelines of what to do when your friend tells you they are struggling and how to handle those difficult conversations. There is a good chance your friend will talk to you before they talk to their parents/guardians. This is not to counsel the person. This is to get the person connected with a helping professional. Please remember the conversation will not be linear like on the page. These are guidelines of some things to consider. 

The person is telling you something scary and personal to them. This is terrifying for both of you. Take a moment to gather yourself and take a deep breath.

Give the person the time and consideration you would like if you were struggling. Be the friend you would like if you were in this situation by giving your friend your full attention. They deserve it. It will also help you know what your friend is trying to tell you. While you are listening, be understanding and compassionate. Give your friend the space to talk.

  • Do not judge your friend. What they are coping with might not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to them. Therefore, it is valid.
  • Sometimes when someone tells us how they are struggling, we react with anger or judgement because we are scared. We might say something like
    • “Oh my goodness! How could you say/think something so stupid?”
    • “Don’t be dumb.”
    • “How could you say something like that?”
    • As you can imagine, this is not helpful for your friend. What your friend hears is “you are stupid/dumb.”
  • Do not interrupt your friend. Being interrupted is very frustrating. It can make the person feel like they are not being heard.
  • Put your phone down! Have you ever talked to someone who is on their phone, and they don’t hear a word you say? It can be very frustrating. Treat your friend with the respect they deserve.
  • Be the best friend you can be and the person you would like if you were in that situation.

Your friend needs to get help. This is not something you can deal with without professional/adult help. Sometimes, it can feel like adults do not listen or take problems seriously, but this is something you need to talk to an adult about. Help your friend think of someone they trust.

Try saying something like:

  • “Have you thought about who else you could talk to about this?”
  • “Have you told anyone else?”
  • “Who do you feel comfortable talking to about this?”
  • “Okay let’s find you some help. Who do you feel comfortable telling?”

 

If they feel like they have no one they can trust, talk to someone you trust. Thinking of who to talk to can be really challenging when you are struggling because if can feel so lonely. If your friend is having a hard time thinking of someone to talk to, help connect them with resources, like a school counsellor or family liaison worker. You can also offer your friend some helplines they can call when they are struggling, too. If you are comfortable, you can also offer to go with your friend to talk to the adult. If the first person you tell does not listen, tell someone else.

If your friend asks you to keep it a secret, you cannot keep it a secret. There are things we keep secret for friends, like their crush or that embarrassing story they swore you to secrecy about, but there are three instances where you must break your friend’s confidence.

  • They are going to harm themself.
  • They are going to harm someone else.
  • They are being harmed by someone.

Talking to a friend who is struggling is challenging. Talk to someone about it to help cope with the stress of the situation. This does not mean gossip but using your own support system. Practice self-care. Do something you enjoy. For self-care ideas, visit the self-care section here.

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Sometimes, people will not want to talk to you. That is okay. It is their choice. Simply let them know you are there to talk if they need someone and give them resources, like hotlines they can call whenever they want to talk to someone.

Please remember, if someone you know dies by suicide, it is not your fault. It is a choice they made. Please get help for yourself. It is important you talk to someone and get help for yourself.

If you suspect someone is suicidal, tell someone, like a school counsellor/social worker, teacher, coach, elder, spiritual leader, or parent. They will be able to help. If the first person you tell does not listen, tell someone else.

Follow-up Support

Students

  • Listen to your friend
  • Maintain healthy boundaries
    • We love our friends and want to be there for them, but we cannot do that at the expense of our own mental health and wellness. It’s okay to say no and refer them to a helpline or other professional help. With cell phones and devices, people often feel like they must answer messages at all hours, but that is not true. You need to take care of yourself too! We cannot properly help someone if we are not in the best headspace. Check out the healthy relationships tab for more information on healthy boundaries.
  • Seek support yourself
    • Having a friend who is suicidal is very challenging. Talk to a professional about it. They will help give you tools to cope with the situation.
  • Encourage positive connections with others
  • Have fun!
  • Check in with your friend to see how they are doing
  • Be supportive
    • If your friend tells you they are going to make healthy changes or try a new hobby, celebrate with them!
  • Watch how you speak
    • We often make jokes about mental health or suicide. If someone is struggling, this could seem callous and uncaring.

Things to Avoid

  • Do not keep it a secret
    • There are things we keep secret for our friends, like crushes and embarrassing stories. This is not one of those things. Even if your friend asks you to keep it a secret. You cannot. Your friend needs help. If the first person you tell does not listen, tell someone else. There are three instances when you must break your friend’s trust, and they are:
      • Your friend is going to hurt themself.
      • Your friend is going to hurt someone else.
      • Your friend is being hurt by someone else.
  • Gossip
    • No, we do not keep it a secret, but that does not mean gossip. You tell a trusted professional/adult, and they will help your friend.
  • Making jokes about suicide or mental health
  • Judging the person
    • This could be something as simple as asking “why” can be viewed as judgement. While it may seem like an innocent question, it is laced with judgement. Think of a time when someone has asked “Why did you do that?” It automatically makes us defensive. It feels like they are judging us. The same is with suicide. The person needs compassion and understanding to help them think of other ways to cope with what they are going through. When someone is struggling, they often feel down on themself. This is why empathy and compassion are so important. There is also the chance the person does not know the exact reason why they are suicidal due to the cumulative nature of suicide.
  • Freak out when the person talks to you.
    • Hearing a friend talk about suicide is scary but yelling at your friend or freaking out is making it about you, not the other person.  If you need to cry, yell, or have a moment, that is okay. Connect your friend with help first. Have your moment somewhere safe. If you need support, have your moment with someone you trust.
  • Leaving them alone if they are a danger to themself.
    • If a person is at a high risk of killing themself, do not leave them alone. Make sure they are connected with help and are safe.
  • Making assumptions about a person’s mental health without talking to them.
  • Threatening or blaming the person
  • Ignoring the person’s mental health problems
  • Counseling the person
  • Making the person’s mental health issues about you
    • If you are struggling because of someone’s mental health, seek help for yourself. When you are helping the person, it is about them and getting them help.
  • Comparing people’s mental health journeys
    • In our society, there is sometimes a compulsion to compare. We compare everything from social media to lifestyle to clothing. Mental health should not be compared. Do not get stuck in the “anything you can do I can do better” trap. Every person’s story or experience is valid.

Tips for Wellness

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. Remember it is okay not to be okay. It is important to reach out for help when you need it. There are several things you can do to support your mental health.

Tips to encourage wellness:

  • Talk to someone
  • Connect with resources, helplines, counsellors, doctors, etc.
  • Practice positive coping skills
    • going for a walk
    • hobbies
    • listening to music
    • practicing mindfulness or gratitude
    • journaling
    • drawing
    • connecting with nature
    • playing with a pet
    • reading
    • playing a game
    • watching a movie

 

In addition to seeking professional help, these activities can help support mental wellness. Check the wellness sessions for ideas.

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