Suicide is defined as the taking of one's own life intentionally and voluntarily. The majority of people contemplating suicide are diagnosed with depression, however not all experience depression. Generally, suicide may not be attributed to one cause but several causes combined.
The possibility that suicide could claim the life of someone you love cannot be ignored. By paying attention to warning signs and talking about suicide, you may be able to help.
Signs of Suicide
- Inflicting self-harm
- Repeated expressions of helplessness, desperation, hopelessness about the future.
- Questioning own value and self-worth, eg., “I'm no good to anybody.”
- A sudden and unexpected change in a cheerful attitude
- Behavior that is out of character, such as recklessness in someone who is normally careful
- Signs of depression – sleeplessness, loss of appetite, loss of interest in usual activities, self-neglect (hygiene), withdrawal
- Hearing voices instructing them to do something dangerous
- Following social withdrawal, the person reverts to unexpected positive behavior, showing an increased interest in family activities, friends, or work
- Giving away treasured keepsakes, making a will, taking out insurance, or other preparations for death, such as telling final wishes to someone close
- Substance use problems or other addictive behaviors
- Making remarks or joking about death and dying, or an expressed intent to die by suicide
- A history of suicidal gestures or attempts
Preventing a suicide attempt
If you're concerned someone you know may be suicidal, take action because you may be the only one who does. If possible, talk with the person directly. The most important thing you can do is listen attentively without judgement. Talking about suicide may decrease the likelihood that someone will act on suicidal thoughts. If talking does not resolve the situation, contact a crisis centre. Crisis centres are trained in helping people overcome suicide thoughts or attempts.
Follow this guideline when talking to someone contemplating suicide:
- Consider a safe place to talk with the person, and allow as much time as necessary.
- Express your concern and respect for his/her privacy. Ask about recent events, and encourage him/her to express feelings freely.
- Do not react by saying, “You shouldn't be having these thoughts; things can't be that bad.” Remember, you're being trusted with someone's deepest feelings, and talking about those feelings will bring the person relief.
- Ask if there is anything you can do.
- Talk about resources that can be drawn on (family, friends, community agencies, crisis centres) to provide support, practical assistance, counselling, or treatment.
- Make plans with the person during the next few hours or days, and offer to go with them to seek help.
- Let him/her know when you can be available, and make sure you're available at those times. Make sure your limits are known, and try to arrange for others to be available at any time of day.
- Ask who else knows about the suicidal feelings. Are there other people who should know? Is the person willing to tell them? Unfortunately, not everyone will treat this issue sensitively. Confidentiality is important, but do not keep the situation secret if a life is clearly in danger.
- Stay in touch to see how he/she is doing.
- Praise the person for having the courage to trust you and for continuing to live and struggle.
What to do following a suicide attempt?
A person may try to die by suicide without warning or despite efforts to help. If you are involved in giving first aid, make every effort to be calm and reassuring, and get medical help immediately. The time following an attempt is critical. The person should receive intensive care during this time. Maintain regular contact, and work with the person to organize support. It's vital that he/she does not feel cut off or shunned as a result of attempting suicide. Be aware that, if someone is intent on dying, you may not be able to stop it from happening. You cannot and should not carry the responsibility for someone else's choice.
If you're feeling suicidal
Tell someone. We know that may be difficult, but it's important to share your feelings with someone you know and trust. There's no reason to feel ashamed of being suicidal or for seeking help.
You may feel like suicide is your only solution, but it's not. Know that there are many ways to cope, to get support, and to recover from these feelings. The sense of desperation and the wish to die will not go away at once, but it will pass. Regaining your will to live is more important than anything else at the moment.
You're not alone. Many people have felt suicidal when facing difficult times. Others have survived and returned to a normal life, and so can you.
- Call a crisis telephone support line.
- Draw on the support of family and friends.
- Talk to your family doctor. He/she can refer you to services in the community, including counselling and hospital services.
- Set up frequent appointments with a mental health professional, and request telephone support between appointments.
- Get involved in self-help groups.
- Talk about how you're feeling every day to at least one person you trust.
- Consider seeking help from the emergency department of a local hospital.
- Talk to someone who has 'been there' about what it was like and how he/she coped.
- Avoid making major decisions that you may later regret.
MDAM Support Groups: View Support Groups
First Nations & Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310 (Outside of Province)
View our comprehensive list of crisis support options throughout Manitoba.