Guest Author: Melissa Howard
On any given day, approximately 11 people will die by suicide in Canada and an additional 210 people will attempt to end their lives, according to figures cited by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. One thing that makes these staggering statistics even more tragic is the fact that suicide and self-harm are preventable. Indeed, suicidal thoughts aren’t fleeting feelings for most who experience them. Rather, they can more accurately be described as recurring symptoms of serious health conditions.
Risks and Warnings
For instance, depression ranks as the top risk factor for suicidal behavior with substance abuse coming in second. And a person’s self-harm risk rises even more if substance abuse occurs alongside major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious mental health conditions, according to the Centre for Suicide Prevention. Other risk factors include having a family history of suicide, recently experiencing a major loss — such as the death of a loved one or a job loss, dealing with a serious physical illness, or having previously attempted suicide. Most people who are considering suicide also exhibit warning signs that they are seriously thinking about harming themselves. The signals can vary depending on the individual, but someone considering suicide could talk about killing themselves, openly express feelings of hopelessness, or express distress about being a burden to others. Some may also increase their drug or alcohol consumption, start parting with prized possessions, or isolate themselves from friends and family.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harming themselves, you should call 911 or dial Canada’s national suicide helpline at 1-833-456-4566. Once you or your loved one’s immediate needs are addressed, healthcare providers and other experts may make diagnoses and prescribe treatments that help alleviate the underlying conditions that culminated in suicidal behavior in an effort to prevent additional attempts. For example, for those diagnosed with depression, treatment could include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy to help replace negative thought patterns with more positive ones. The treatment plan could also include prescription medication to help manage mood. Those who grapple with chronic pain or other serious illnesses may be introduced to interventions that can reduce symptoms or manage them more effectively. If substance addiction is an issue, medical professions may recommend rehabilitation treatment and eventually set up ongoing support to help the patient stay substance-free.
There are also steps you or your loved one who has attempted suicide can take to help deal with depression, chronic pain management and drug or alcohol recovery over the long haul. For instance, there are support groups for both the patient and affected friends or family members. After any imminent crisis has passed, these peer groups can serve as a nurturing network of individuals who’ve faced some of the same challenges. Regular physical activity and mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and help people to manage pain more effectively. And having a supportive friend as a workout partner will help someone who’s struggled with suicidal thoughts stick with healthy habits while also offering health benefits for the buddy. The important takeaway is that suicide can be prevented. Although those thinking of harming themselves often feel hopeless, nothing could be further from fact. Indeed, seeking help in a crisis, treating underlying conditions behind suicidal behavior and maintaining healthy habits and hobbies can help people who’ve considered or attempted suicide lead long and fulfilling lives.
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
Centre for Suicide Prevention
national suicide helpline