Factors that can contribute to thoughts of suicide are complex and different for everyone. These are called risk factors because they may increase how likely someone is to experience thoughts of suicide. Some risk factors can include:
● Family history of suicide;
● Mental health issues/changes in your mental health
● Experiences of Bullying or Cyberbullying
● Exposure to trauma, violence and abuse
● History of self-injury and/or previous suicide attempts
● Grief and loss
● Substance Use
This list does not account for everything as there are other risk factors that can contribute to thoughts of suicide. It is important to understand that experiencing one of these risk factors doesn’t mean that a person will have thoughts of suicide and it is also possible to have thoughts of suicide without experiencing any of the risk factors.
Suicide can be prevented. Many people who have suicidal thoughts, or who have attempted suicide, do not die by suicide. Many people can recover from these experiences and live meaningful lives.
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death and is often related to stress and health issues.
Suicidal thoughts are when someone is thinking about ending their own life. 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.
A suicidal attempt is when someone harms themselves with any attempt to end their life, but they do not die as a result of their actions.
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
● 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.
Many things can reduce how intensely and how often people experience thoughts of suicide; these are called protective factors.
Protective factors can include:
● using different coping tools that work for you;
● a school, work and social environment that promotes well-being;
● feeling a sense of belonging and safety;
● having people to talk to and express your thoughts and feelings;
● getting enough sleep and taking care of your body through nutrition and movement
There are many factors that can affect your mental health and it’s common to feel down from time to time. School and work stress, dealing with bullying, going through a break-up or experiencing a loss are some examples of things that can make you feel overwhelmed or defeated. When people feel this way, they may have thoughts of suicide. Having thoughts of death and dying can be scary and confusing. While experiencing thoughts and feelings about ending your life may not necessarily mean you want to die, it can be a major warning sign.
If you start to notice that you’re thinking about suicide, here are a few ideas to help you cope:
● name your emotions (“I’m feeling sad/angry/afraid”, etc.);
● refocus your emotions and energy with an activity you enjoy (spend time outside, journal, listen to music, etc.);
● practice mindfulness;
● spend time with someone you care about;
● refer to your safety plan.
● 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.
● 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.
If you feel that the person is in immediate danger, or you are feeling overwhelmed by the situation, please call 911.
- How to cope with thoughts of suicide – Kids Help Phone
- Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention
- When a Family Member Is Thinking About Suicide
- Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy
- First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework
- National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (NAYSPS) Program Framework
- Hope for Wellness Help Line
- Centre for Suicide Prevention
- When a Parent Dies by Suicide
- Safety Plan – Fillable
- Safety Plan – Printable
- Aboriginal Youth: A Manual of Promising Suicide Prevention Strategies