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Experts in the field suggest that a suicidal person is feeling tremendous pain that they can see no other option. People consider suicide when they feel hopeless and unable to see alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behaviour is most often related to a mental disorder (depression) or to alcohol or other substance abuse. Suicidal behaviour is also more likely to occur when people experience stressful events such as a major losses, childhood trauma, serious physical illness or major life changes.
Take that person seriously. Listen and don’t judge. Encourage the person to talk to a professional for help. If someone is in immediate danger of harming himself or herself, do not leave the person alone. You may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as calling 911. When someone is suicidal, it is important to make sure the person does not have access to firearms or other lethal means of suicide.
. You are not abnormal and not alone as many people do think about suicide at certain times in their lives. However, if you think about suicide often, it may indicate you are depressed. If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone for help and support. You can turn to the agencies and organizations listed on this web site for help.
The majority of people with depression do not die by suicide. Having major depression does increase suicide risk compared to people without depression. The risk of death by suicide may, in part, be related to how severely depressed a person is.
Another way to think about suicide risk and depression is to look at the lives of people who have died by suicide and see what proportion of them were depressed. From that perspective, it is estimated that more than 60 percent of people who die by suicide have had a mood disorder such as depression. Younger persons who kill themselves often have a substance abuse disorder in addition to being depressed.
Alcohol and substance abuse problems can contribute to suicidal behaviour in a few ways. People who abuse drugs and/or alcohol often have other risk factors for suicide, including depression, social problems and financial problems. This combination of problems may make them feel suicidal and unable to cope.
There is no definite way to predict suicidal behaviour. There are factors that place a person at higher risk but they can’t predict who will actually die by suicide.
Here are some of the situations that may cause someone to be more vulnerable to feelings of suicide:
A person’s suicidal feelings may be brought on by unexpected situations that create crisis such as financial setbacks or troubles with the law. Physical illness, an unstable family, loss of a loved one to suicide, and isolation are other situations that may cause someone to feel suicidal.
(CAMH – suicide prevention & assessment handbook)
About 4,000 people in Canada die by suicide each year or 10 each day. That is 14 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people in Canada each year.
There are some estimates that as many as 20% of suicide deaths are not reported.
Every year in Canada, more people die by suicide than by motor vehicle accidents. It’s like a jumbo jet carrying 340 passengers crashing every 30 days with all lives lost.
Women attempt suicide at a rate four times higher than men. But men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women.
Suicide deaths occur in all age groups. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24. Because of isolation, illness and loneliness, seniors are at greater risk for suicide than teenagers.
For every suicide there are many other suicide attempts. For people who feel suicidal there are many visits to emergency rooms, hospitalizations, and other interventions. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates as many as 20 attempts for every suicide. One in seven Canadians has seriously considered suicide.
Every person who dies by suicide directly impacts at least 10 family members, friends, or colleagues.
People who die by suicide include parents, partners, children, friends, neighbours and those from all socio-economic, age, gender, and cultural groups. No part of society is immune from possible suicide deaths. Suicide affects us all. It remains one of Canada’s most serious public health issues.
While suicide rates have been lower in Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills) than across Canada, Halton residents do attempt suicide and take their own lives. Consider the following Halton information:
Suicide stigma is an important issue for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
Stigma means a “mark of shame or discredit”. (Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health)
Suicide stigma has deep roots in religion and the law. The Christian Church treated suicide as a sin from the fifth century AD until the middle or late twentieth century. Most states made suicide a crime until the twentieth century, in Canada until the 1970’s. By the twentieth century, with developments in medicine and psychiatry, suicide started to be viewed as a health issue.
Stigma is one of the biggest barriers in the grief process for survivors of suicide.
Most importantly, stigma around suicide often keeps people who are suicidal from openly talking about their thoughts with family and friends and from seeking help, treatment, and support.
This means suicide stigma can actually cause suicide.
Although suicide in Canada is not a crime, the stigma lingers on. Many people view suicide as immoral or a sign of weakness or a sign of selfishness. These beliefs stem from a lack of understanding about suicide and mental illness.
If someone you love has died by suicide, you are faced with a double impact of stigma. First, as mental illness has a stigma, your loved one may have not sought help because of this. Secondly, the suicide itself has a stigma.
In the immediate aftermath of the suicide, you need to talk about the death and the struggles of your loved one. Friends and family may be uncomfortable discussing the suicide or may make unhelpful comments. The survivor is faced with fighting shame and guilt when support is needed.
The term “committed suicide” strongly suggests suicide is a crime, carrying the stigma associated with suicide. The term “committed suicide” should be replaced by saying, “died by suicide”.
Our goal is to increase awareness and knowledge about the nature of suicide to remove the stigma, shame, and guilt – and most of all, to prevent more deaths by suicide.
End the silence around suicide.
Encourage people to talk about their thoughts and feelings about suicide with friends, family, and helping professionals.
Make sure that any education includes anti-stigma messages.
Be aware of suicide facts so that you can help dispel some of the myths around suicide.
(Adapted from information from the Centre for Suicide Prevention)