MDABC would like to thank this month’s blog contributor– a passionate writer and crusader of mental health awareness, Andrew. By volunteering to share his first-hand experience, Andrew is able to inspire readers and provide insight through his constructive, stigma-free words.
Nearly 4,000 Canadians die each year by suicide, at an average of 10 suicides per day. For each death by suicide, there are as many as 100 suicide attempts. Today, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada.
This has been a taboo subject, there’s no denying it. In fact, the very act of attempting suicide was once a crime in Canada. It wasn’t until the social change movement of the 60s and 70s that people began to adopt more sympathetic attitudes towards suicide, and understand its driving factors. In the
past decade especially, anti-stigma awareness campaigns have also contributed to public education and a move away from taboo and toward hope. Still, barriers persist.
It’s hard for society to wrap its head around the concept of suicide. Some social groups still view it as a sin – an act deserving of divine punishment. Other groups see suicide as an act of weakness, and selfishness. It is important to note that suicide is not an act attributable to personal faults.
Among the risk factors associated with suicide, are mental illness, and substance misuse disorders. And there is a great deal of stigma associated with mental health challenges.
The topic of stigma is important when discussing suicide because it’s self-stigma, or internalized shame that sometimes prevents people from reaching out for help. Education is an important tool to develop positive changes in attitudes towards suicide. Learn the warning signs associated with suicide, and what preventative measures to take if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
Here are some of the warning signs from HelpGuide.org:
Talking about suicide – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm.
Seeking out lethal means
Preoccupation with death
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden.
Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others
Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex.
Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.
Suicide is preventable. If you are a co-worker, friend or family member noticing these signs in someone close to you, there are several ways YOU CAN HELP:
- Try to get your loved one help. Call a crisis line or encourage the person to see a mental health professional.
- Provide support if possible. Spend time with your loved one, doing healthy activities and check in on them regularly.
- Remove potential means of suicide, and help develop a safety plan. This plan can include identifying any potential triggers that may worsen suicidal thoughts and behaviours, contact information for crisis help lines and professional supports, and a set of steps to take in case of an emergency.
- Let the person know they are loved, valued, and cared about. Tell them you’re there for them.
Suicidal crises are almost always temporary, and suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated by a mental health professional. But, it is important that anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts not keep them bottled in, because they may very well worsen. It’s OK to talk about suicide.
I’d like to end this article with a personal story, because I believe stories of lived experience can inspire hope in people who are struggling.
For a long time, I struggled with suicidal ideation. There’s even been an attempt in my past. Today, I live free of thoughts of suicide, and I’ve been receiving treatment for mental illness for several years now. And, I see that there is, and has always been, hope. But, I wish I’d reached out for help earlier, because I spent a lot of time in pain. It wasn’t long after reaching out for help, that my pain began to ease. I’ve learned along my journey to transform pain into gain: I’ve grown, strengthened, and learned. This has been a process, and although I still struggle from time to time, I’m so very grateful to be in recovery.
Suicide prevention and education services:
For youth in BC and Canada –
For British-Columbians (adults and youth):
For anyone reading online: