21 SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS Suicide Suicide is a troubling topic that most of us would rather not deal with, but suicide is a reality, and it is more common than we would like to think. - More than 3,500 Canadians kill themselves each year. - 1 in every 25 Canadians attempts suicide during his or her lifetime. - A 1994 United Nations study over a three-year period found Canada’s suicide rate for children and youth under 21 to be among the highest in the world. Many times suicidal actions are a desperate “cry for help” and many suicides can be prevented. By paying attention to warning signs and talking about the “unthinkable,” you may be able to prevent a death. Why do people take their own life? Most people who attempt suicide are ambivalent about taking their own life, however circumstances make them feel that life is unbearable. Suicide seems like the only way to deal with their problems because they have an extreme sense of hopelessness, helplessness and depression. Some of the factors that may lead a person to attempt suicide are: - feelings of isolation - having a serious physical illness - experiencing a major loss (death of a loved one, unemployment or divorce) - abuse of drugs or alcohol - experiencing major changes in life - prolonged depression with alterations in thinking patterns - post-partum depression - history of severe child abuse - living in a violent relationship What are the danger signs? Some people who kill themselves do not give any warning at all. Many, however, offer clues and communicate their plans to others. Individuals expressing suicidal intentions should always be taken seriously. Some of the signs to look out for are: - direct suicide threats such as “I want to die,” or indirect threats such as “You would be better off without me” - personality changes or withdrawn behaviour - hoarding medication - giving away prized possessions - lack of interest in future plans - isolation from friends and colleagues - depression Threats that may signal imminent danger often come from people who are isolated, who have attempted suicide before (and then were discovered only by accident), are impulsive, and have access to lethal means (weapons, drugs). (continued)