Recognize the warning signs
Suicide Risk Factors
- Gender - Men are 3 times more likely than women to complete suicide. Women are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Previous suicide attempt or gesture – Nearly 40% of individuals who attempt suicide have made previous attempts. The risk of a second attempt is highest within 3 months of the first attempt.
- Family history of suicidal behaviour – Another risk factor is the anniversary date of a family member who died by suicide.
- Mental illness – Close to 95% of individuals who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental illness.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Substance use or abuse
- Life stressors (loss, failure, interpersonal conflict, high-stress occupations)
- Marital Status - Divorced individuals are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than married individuals.
- History of abuse
- Victim of bullying - Bully victims are 2-9 times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Sexual orientation – LGBTQ teens and young adults have the highest rate of suicide attempts.
- Juvenile delinquency
- Contagion or imitation (the suicide of a friend or exposure to media reports of suicide)
- Chronic physical illness
- Living in isolation; homelessness
- Access to lethal means (such as firearms and medication)
- Impulsive behaviours
Key Suicidal Clues
- Expresses suicidal thoughts - ALWAYS take this seriously
- Planning death - begins planning death / preparation (e.g. suicide note, journaling, making a will, giving away possessions)
- Symptoms of depression
- Items on hand to attempt suicide
- Drug/alcohol use - engages in drug/alcohol use with any of the above factors
- Drives recklessly - many MVAs may be suicides in disguise
- Neglecting or obsessing over personal appearance
- No longer able to enjoy oneself
- Feeling angry, irritable
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed leisure activities, work, or school
- Being impulsive; an increase in risk taking
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Physical complaints of chronic aches or pains
- Increased anxiety
- Feeling helpless, hopeless
- Extreme fatigue or extreme burst of energy
- Sudden change in mood; no longer depressed, feeling better and brighter – often mistaken for a positive change in mental health; however, must be taken very seriously. Many suicidal individuals experience feelings of euphoria, elation, and relief once they have made the final decision to follow through with their plan.
How to Help
- All talk of suicide must be taken seriously
- Never minimize someone’s feelings
- If you are concerned about someone, identify the concerns you have and ask them directly if they are planning to harm themselves. Use “I” statements such as, “I’ve noticed that you seem sad lately”, “I am concerned about you”, “I was wondering if you’re thinking of harming yourself.” Asking an individual who is not thinking of suicide will not increase their risk
- If the individual’s answer is, “yes”, then ask if they have a plan (having a specific plan is an added risk factor)
- Indicate that you care about them and want them to be safe
- Encourage the individual to talk about their feelings
- Listen without judging
- Let the individual know about available resources and help them make a contact
- If possible, stay with the individual and go with them to get help
- If the individual is highly at risk and refuses to get help, consider involving the mental health system or police
Do not be afraid to ask someone whether or not they are contemplating harming themselves or ending their life. Sometimes all it takes to save a life is one caring person to reach out at the right time. Do not be silenced by your own fear.