The most common preventable way teenagers die in Canada is in car accidents. The second most common way? You guessed it—suicide.
But even though a disturbing number of teens are choosing to end their own lives, the guilt and shame around suicide make it something people are afraid to discuss—and that’s too bad, because the more we don’t talk about suicide, the more alone people who are having suicidal thoughts feel, and the less likely they are to ask for help.
Why do young people think about committing suicide?
Mental health problems like depression play a big role in suicide, but so do difficult situations—like moving to a new country. The stress of financial worries, adapting to a new culture, leaving family behind or being bullied at a new school can sometimes feel unbearable, especially when you’re young. After all, even though you’ve been through a lot, you still don’t have the same life experience as an adult, and it can be hard to remember that problems—no matter how big or bad they are—eventually pass.
Whatever is going on in the life of a person having suicidal thoughts, the common factor is that they feel defeated by their problems and want to escape. In fact, their pain is so overwhelming that dying seems like the only answer.
What are the warning signs that someone is suicidal?
When someone commits suicide it can seem sudden, but most often it’s something the person has been thinking about for a while. Unless they outright tell you, there’s no way to know for sure if a person is considering suicide, but there are some hints you can watch for:
- sudden changes in behaviour
- not wanting to spend time with friends
- losing interest in activities they used to enjoy
- using more alcohol or drugs
- mood swings and emotional outbursts
- feelings of hopelessness
- talking often about death or giving away important possessions
- talking about suicide (e.g., "No one would miss me if I died.")
- making a suicide plan
- taking more risks (e.g., driving recklessly)
- writing or drawing about suicide in a diary
What should you do if you feel suicidal?
If you’re in so much pain that you feel like ending your life, please give it some more time, and know that you don’t need to deal with this alone. There are people out there who are ready and able to get you through this horrible time. These people won’t judge you, send you to a mental hospital, or try to talk you out of feeling bad. They’ll just listen to you and then get you more help if you need it. Find one of them, and do it now! For a list of phone numbers and websites, see the resource box on the left.
What should you do if a friend seems suicidal?
If a friend is showing some of the warning signs above, or if they start talking about suicide, you need to take it seriously. And if they beg you to keep it a secret, well, this is one time you just can’t keep a promise. By telling you about their plans, or dropping hints, your friend is likely crying out for help, even if they say they’re not.
No one can solve another person's problems, but your sympathy and support can help your friend to feel less alone. Encourage them to talk to you about what they’re feeling, and then tell an adult you trust, or make a phone call to one of the numbers in the resource box on the left. You might just save their life.
If you think you know someone who is suicidal or are feeling suicidal:
- Call 911.
- Look in the front of your phone book for a listing of local crisis lines.
- Go to the emergency room of your local hospital.