What are suicidal thoughts?

Suicide is when someone intentionally ends their own life. Suicidal thoughts are when someone thinks about ending their own life.

Suicide is a serious and permanent decision that can happen for many different reasons, like feeling overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, or pain.

Suicidal thoughts can range from fleeting ideas to detailed plans, and they often indicate that a person is struggling with deep emotional distress or mental health issues. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to seek help and support from loved ones, friends, or professionals.

Why do young people think about 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. Their pain is so overwhelming that dying seems like the only answer.

What are the warning signs that someone is suicidal?

It 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 upfront, 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
  • often talking 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 I do if I feel suicidal?

If you’re in so much pain that you feel like ending your life, you are not weak or flawed. Your experiences and feelings are valid. But there are other ways to cope and overcome your anguish.

Please give it more time and know 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 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 feel comfortable opening up to, you have other options:

  • Call or text 9-8-8, Canada’s confidential suicide crisis helpline, at any time for free. 
  • If you are in immediate danger of hurting yourself and your safety is at risk:
    • Go to the emergency room of your local hospital or
    • Call 9-1-1

What should I 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 unprompted. 

Encourage them to talk about their feelings and contact trained professionals, like doctors and counsellors, 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:

  • Kids Help Phone: Free, 24/7, confidential mental health helpline for kids, teens and young adults.
  • Good2Talk: Free, 24/7, confidential support service for post-secondary students in Ontario. A translation service is available in 170 languages for individuals who do not speak English or French.
  • Ontario Mental Health Support: Information from the government of Ontario on how to find mental health support.