- Estimates indicate that for every recorded death by suicide, there are from 5% to 25% unreported suicides. Attempts to die by suicide are estimated to be 40 to 100 times greater than the number of deaths by suicide.
- Canadians are approximately 7 times more likely to die from suicide than to be a victim of homicide.
Youth and Suicide in Canada:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth aged 10 – 24, the first leading cause is motor vehicle accidents.
- Every year in Canada, almost 300 youth die by suicide. Between 8/10 of Canadian youth consider suicide before graduating high school.
- Adolescent men are three to five times more likely to die by suicide than young women are.
- Adolescent women are four to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than young men are.
- Studies indicate widespread use of alcohol and drugs among teens are major causal factors in youth suicide.
The Differences between Men and Women:
- Men are at least three times more likely than women to die by suicide.
- Women make three to four times more suicide attempts than men do.
- Men are also more likely than women to die during their first suicide attempt, because the methods men tend to use are more lethal.
There is no single reason why people attempt suicide. Often there are a variety of stressors, mental health concerns and life events that contribute to thoughts of suicide. The majority of people who struggle with thoughts of suicide are not sure they want to die, but an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and lack of support contribute to suicidal behaviour. Suicide is more often about having trouble with life than about wanting to die.
Understanding Risks that can Contribute to Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings:
- Living with a serious physical or mental illness, or supporting someone who has a serious physical or mental illness.
- Excessive use of alcohol, illegal and/or prescription drugs and/or other substances.
- Experiencing a traumatic event or major loss
- Past suicide attempts.
- Social isolation.
- Recent suicide of a relative or friend, or family history of suicide.
- Struggling with identity issues or planning for the future
- Living with or recovering from abuse, domestic violence, bullying or sexual assault.
- Major life changes
- Sexual orientation issues and the impact of stigma and/or discrimination
- Peer pressure, low self-esteem, and self-harm as only coping strategy.
Signs of Suicide Risk
Suicidal thoughts are very painful and take up a great deal of a person’s attention and energy. Often people will show signs of struggle, either due to the lack of energy, or as a way of asking for help. We call these signs ‘Invitations to Help’. Awareness of the possible signs of risk can lead to the person getting help sooner. Be alert to sudden changes in behaviour that are significant and unusual for that individual. Some of the warning signs are listed below:
- Suicidal threats
- Self-harming actions
- Previous suicide attempts
- Loss of interest in friends, family and hobbies
- Talking and joking about suicide or death
- Comments or jokes about being a burden and/or how people would be better off if the individual was no longer around
- Major personality changes, moodiness, withdrawal, flat affect
- Preoccupation with the theme of death and dying
- Sudden increase/decrease in appetite, weight or sleep patterns
- Expressions of helplessness, hopelessness and desperation
- Giving away or promising possessions to family and friends
- Collection and discussion of information around various suicide methods
How to Help If Someone You Know is at Risk of Suicide
If you recognize any of the signs in someone you know, or if you are concerned about them in any way, it is important to ask them and have a conversation about what they are experiencing. It can be tough to start a conversation about suicide, mental health, self-harm, these are all really serious and heavy topics. The best thing to do is to be direct, and honest about why you are asking, and emphasize that you care about the individual and that’s why you are worried about them.
Sit down with your friend in private or with another close friend together.
Tell your friend that you have been worried about them. “Lisa you have been my best friend for a long time, and I’ve been really worried about you lately…”
List the behaviours that have you worried. “You never come to school anymore, and you haven’t come to soccer practice, you don’t answer when I text or call you, you look really tired and thin, and you gave away a bunch of your favorite clothes and books. I’m concerned and I want to help.”
Mention the concern of suicide. “Sometimes when people withdraw, and stop sleeping and give away their stuff, it’s because they are thinking about suicide…Are you thinking of suicide?”
Whatever the answer is, stay calm! – This is a situation where you need to acknowledge your own feelings and opinions towards suicide, and ultimately put them aside to focus on your friend. This is their journey and it is a scary one. They need support and acceptance from you no matter what you are feeling.
Listen and validate them. – This may be the first time that your friend has talked about what they are feeling, so they may need time to organize their thoughts. You don’t need to fill the silences, just allow them to think about what they want to say. Whatever they are feeling, whether you agree with it or not, is valid and important. Support can be shown through a blameless apology ‘I’m so sorry you’re feeling like this,” “I’m sorry you’re going through all of this, it must be so hard”.
Tell Someone! – NEVER promise to keep secrets. It is vital to tell a trusted adult about these feelings and bring someone else into the situation. This is not something that can be carried alone. One good strategy is to say ‘I won’t promise you secrecy, but I will promise you discretion.’ Reassure your friend that you are not going to tell everyone, but you do need to tell someone. It really helps to have them decide who they will trust with this, have them pick a teacher, a CYW, social worker, coach, any adult they trust to confide in.
Where to Get Help. – Help is always available from the guidance office at school. The school social worker and child and youth worker will have knowledge and experience in helping youth with thoughts of suicide. Consider talking with a family doctor, or a school mental health nurse. There are also several confidential support lines that are listed on our resources page. Consider using mental health apps that can be downloaded for free. Be brave, talk about it, there are a lot of people out there who want to help!
Remember the most important thing you can do is