Ok, sad but true there are about 10 people every day who end their lives intentionally. The unfortunate truth about that miserable statistic is there are many more that do not show up on the “official statistics”, but none the less, have intentionally caused their own demise. How can you help?
Awareness and education are the first steps in the chain of successful helping strategies. The Canadian Suicide Prevention Association indicates, “Suicide data are somewhat under-reported due to the difficult nature of classifying suicide and the time lag in determining this as the cause of death”. In any event, it is important that we do not split hairs on the statistics and recognize in a broad stroke that suicide takes too many lives and that it is highly preventable.
Before we go further and become lost in the statistics lets break it down a bit more. The word suicide as itemized by Statistics Canada is concerned with those who die from suicide. As concerned friends and family it is important to know there are a number of signposts along the way that show up long before the final act. Individuals may have suicidal thoughts, that is to say, they may be thinking about ending their lives for a variety of reasons and they are starting to consider it as an option. Additional steps include making a plan and considering the best way to accomplish the task, followed by accumulating the necessary ingredient to fulfil the plan (alcohol, pills, gun, rope, car, motorcycle etc.). All attempts at suicide are not fully completed and the statistics indicate there are between 10-25 attempts for every suicide death.
The groups most at risk include: Adolescents, one quarter of all adolescent deaths, 15-24, are a result of suicide, including young men between ages of 20 and 24 in addition to senior men over the age of 80. Males are three times more likely to complete suicide where as females are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. Statistics Canada says that “mental illness is the most important risk factor for suicide; and that more than 90% of people who die from suicide have a mental or addictive disorder. Depression is the most common illness among those who die from suicide, with approximately 60% suffering from this condition”. So, what can we do to help?
First step is to be aware of your friends and family members, depression and substance abuse can be “red flags” to help you become more acutely aware that something may be happening. Other warning signs include: a feeling there is no hope for the future, self-loathing, self-hatred, getting affairs in order, talking about suicide, and self-destructive behaviour to name a few.
You are not going to put the thought into their heads so “speak up if you’re worried”. Open the conversation and ask questions. Try to determine how far they are into the process (thoughts, plans, necessary equipment, time frame, intention) and seek professional help as quickly as possible. Crisis lines Telecare Distress Centre of Peterborough (705) 745-2273 or Four Counties Crisis (866) 995-9933
Remember a good friend or concerned family member will listen with a compassionate ear and provide support in finding appropriate help. It is not your responsibility to fix the problem but to recognize the signs and support the healing process. Help your friend to make the crisis line call, take them to the emergency department, and help them to make an appointment with a trained psychotherapist, counsellor, or other mental health practitioner.
To get a listing of other community support numbers, web pages and contacts click here