~Submitted: Christie Tawari
Going through the pandemic may be one most transformative times in our lives. It has been an unsettling and stressful time, that may have impacted your physical and mental health. Changes at school, peer pressure, and other difficulties can make anyone feel extremely overwhelmed and unsure of the future. We may not always be aware of what is going on for others, but it helps to understand what factors make someone more or less likely to consider or attempt suicide and what the warning signs look like for someone contemplating suicide.
What are the warning signs?
Suicide can affect everyone regardless of gender, race, income, and family background. Someone thinking about suicide usually feels intense and overwhelming emotional pain characterized by sadness, anger, guilt, shame, emptiness, and hopelessness. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to know when someone we care about is thinking about suicide, but there are some signs to be aware of.
Dramatic Changes in Behaviour
You may notice that your friend is no longer taking care of themselves, complains of exhaustion, and neglects their personal appearance. Or someone who is ordinarily cautious is suddenly engaging in risky behaviour such as reckless driving or sexual promiscuity. Dramatic mood changes and any significant behaviour changes may be cause for concern.
Problems in School
A dramatic drop in performance or grades, falling asleep at their desk, emotional outbursts, or other uncharacteristic behaviours may signify that something serious is going on.
Excess Substance Use
Alcohol and other drug abuse appear to be significantly linked to increased risk-taking and suicide attempts. If you notice your friend’s alcohol and drug use increasing, this behaviour could be a concern to address.
Withdrawal from Life
Withdrawing from classes, friends & family, sleeping too much (or too little), and visiting or calling to “say goodbye” can all be suicide warning signs to take seriously.
Giving Away Possessions
Someone who has decided to attempt suicide may start giving away their possessions, such as clothing, books, or other valuables.
Concerning Verbal Statements
Your friend who is thinking of suicide may make comments such as “life is not worth it,” “you would be better off without me,” “I wish I were dead,” “I don’t know if I can go on,” or “you won’t have to worry about me for much longer.” These statements should always be taken seriously. Comments about having no reason to live, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, feeling hopeless or in despair, and stating an intent to hurt or kill oneself are all warning signs of serious suicide risk.
Individuals making a plan for suicide may seek a means to kill themselves. For example, your friend could look to purchase firearms, weapons, rope, extra medication, drugs, or poison. They may also search online for ways to end their life.
A significant number of people who die by suicide have attempted suicide before or have a history of suicide in their families.
A desire to end one’s life may appear in the person’s artwork, poetry, essays, choice of music, preoccupation with an occult group or activity.
Some mental health conditions may be associated with suicidal thoughts, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety. If someone you care about has disclosed previous mental health problems, has been through family violence, including physical or sexual abuse, or regularly self-harms, these could all be indicators of increased risk.
If your friend has recently suffered a painful loss, setback, humiliation, or is experiencing prolonged grief from previous losses or troubling events, the addition of other listed warning signs may increase the risk of considering suicide.
You can make a difference
Signs of suicide look different for different people, but the ones listed above can be good indicators that something more serious may be going on. If someone you care about displays any warning signs, it’s important to take these threats seriously. To help, consider offering emotional support, listening, and encouraging your friend to reach out to a professional, such as a counsellor or a crisis line responder through the Crisis Line at 1-888-353-2273 or the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (if they are in immediate danger, always call 9-1-1).
By educating yourself and knowing the signs, you can make a difference and potentially save someone’s life. For more information and resources, download the Suicide Prevention Handbook at www.kcr.ca.
About Christie Tawari:
Christie Tawari is the Crisis Line Community Engagement Facilitator at KCR Community Services, a multi-service agency that operates local crisis lines. The Interior Crisis Line 1-888-353-CARE (1-888-353-2273) provides 24/7, confidential telephone crisis intervention through active listening and support. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) is committed to supporting any person living in Canada who is affected by suicide, in the most caring and least intrusive manner possible. Call toll-free anytime at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 between 1 pm – 9 pm PST / 4 pm – 12 am EST.
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