The most common preventable way teenagers die in Canada is in car accidents. The second most common way? You guessed it—suicide.
But there is so much stigma around suicide that people are afraid to talk about it. 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.
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?
I can seem sudden when someone attempts suicide, but most often it’s something the person has been thinking about for a while. Unless they tell you upront, there’s no way of knowing 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, you are not weak or flawed. Your experieces and feelings are valid. But there may be other ways to cope and overcome your anguish.
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!
Try reaching out to someone you trust if you're feeling suicidal. If there's no one close to you who you can talk to, you have other options:
- Call a crisis centre
- Go to the emergency room of your local hospital
- Call 911
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. Go ahead and ask them directly if they are thinking of hurting themselves. They may be too scared to bring it up themselves.
Encourage them to talk about how they're feeling and to reach out to trained professionals, like doctors and counselors, for help. The most important thing to do is listen without judging them.
Your friend may beg you to keep what they're telling you a secret. But if you sense danger, 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. Tell an adult you trust about what's going on.
No one can solve another person's problems, but your sympathy and support can help your friend to feel less alone. Finally, make sure that you get help for yourself. Supporting a friend in need can be traumatic, and you shouldn't carry this burden alone.
Here are some other resources that can help you and your friend cope: