5 Ways to Support Someone Who is Suicidal

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by Kristen Bellows

Thursday, September 10, 2015, is World Suicide Prevention Day. World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was created by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and events are held globally each year to spread awareness about suicide and its prevention. The theme for this year is Reaching Out and Saving Lives. With the World Health Organization reporting over 800,000 people worldwide are committing suicide every year, and even more than that attempting suicide, it is very clear that suicide is a real problem, not just in Canada but in many countries. Something must be done!

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that:

  • The suicide rate for Canadians is 15 per 100,000 people. But rates for specific marginalized groups are even higher, such as the suicide rate for Inuit peoples, who live in Northern Canada, is between 60 and 75 per 100,000 people.
  • 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year old Canadians are the result of suicide and 16% among 16-44 year olds.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 10-24 year old Canadians.
  • 73% of admissions to hospital are for attempted suicide for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.

I attempted to end my life when I was 16 years old. While for various reasons my recollection of my attempt is a little fuzzy I do remember not feeling supported before or after. People treated my attempt like it had never happened and therefore, showed me that what I had tried to do Blog- 5 Ways to SupportSomeone Who isSuicidaldid not matter, that what I was feeling did not matter. My suicide attempt was a dirty secret, a whisper in the school hallways and a mark of shame on my family.

As I got older and began to understanding and acknowledge the stigma and discrimination the surrounds mental illness and suicide, I saw that how I was treated before and after my suicide attempt may have been because my friends, family, peers and teachers did not know what to do. They had no tools to help support me when I could not help myself. I’m sure many of them felt just as lost as I did.

Here are 5 suggestions that you can use to support someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts and may be at risk for attempting.

  1. Listen- listen with compassion, non-judgement and seriousness.
  2. Remind them that they are important- tell them they are loved, needed and that you care about them.
  3. Tell their mental health service provider/support them in finding one.
  4. Check in- every once in awhile ask them how they are doing, don’t just have one conversation.
  5. Learn about the risk factors and signs of suicide- the more you know the more confident you will feel in supporting someone.

The second time I was suicidal and at risk for an attempt (May 2014) my experience was very different. I had a lot of support around me from friends, family, and my partner. I was checked on daily via text, offers to come and hang out with me (which one friend did), professionals were aware of what I was experiencing and I was frequently reminded that I played an important role in the lives of those around me and in my own life. I felt loved and unashamed. I came out of that dark place with no physical consequences and felt emotionally stronger. The support made the difference!

If you are feeling suicidal right now please click here for a list of helplines or call 9-1-1. If you are worried about someone please click here for a list of helplines or call 9-1-1.

Young Ones can also offer treatment to youth, ages 13-24, who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and ideation. Please contact help@youngones.ca to be quickly connected with a therapist.

Please check out our blog on the warning signs of suicide.



Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Preventing Suicide

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Wake Forest University: Suicide Prevention Counseling Guide




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