- Posted by Jon Harju
- On September 9, 2019
It can be difficult to understand why a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague died by suicide. From the outside, it may appear that the person had everything to live for, showed no warnings sides or didn’t express their need for help.
The mystery surrounding suicide is partly because we collectively aren’t having the conversation. We need to start talking about suicide so we can understand who may be at risk and how we can better support them.
There’s no single cause for suicide but it often occurs when a health issue and stressors combine to create an experience of hopelessness and despair for a person.
While there are many factors that can lead to a person dying by suicide, the most common one is major depression. A person feeling great emotional pain is unable to see a way to relieve the pain, other than ending their own life.
Other risk factors of suicide include:
- A severe physical or mental illness
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Experience of a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, unemployment or divorce.
- Experience of a significant life change, i.e. moving into adolescence or retirement, previous suicidal behaviour.
People who consider suicide usually feel life is unbearable. They have an extreme sense of hopelessness and desperation.
Writer, Clare Francis, talks about her husband’s suicide: “Mark didn’t end his life because he’d had a bad day at work or because we’d had an argument, he felt it was the only way he could get rid of the dark thoughts that plagued his life.”
What are the warning signs of suicide?
Many of us will notice changes in people around us and have the feeling that ‘something is not right.’ Rarely is suicide a spur of the moment decision and typically a person displays numerous warning signs prior to considering suicide that we may not think twice about.
Some suicidal warning signs include:
- Expressions of hopelessness and desperation
- Withdrawal from friends, family and activities
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- The decrease/increase in appetite
- Self-harm including increased use of alcohol or substances
- Talking about death or wanting to die
- Mood swings, irritability or aggression, emotional outbursts
- Behaviour that is out of character, e.g. recklessness in someone who is usually careful
- Giving away prized possessions to friends and family
- Making preparations for death, e.g. creating a will, taking out insurance, sharing final wishes with someone close
Verbal remarks should always be taken seriously, i.e. “Nothing matters anymore,” “you’re better off without me,” “I can’t go on,” or even “I’m thinking of ending it all.”
Reaching out to someone
The very nature of someone struggling with suicide and depression is that they are unlikely to reach out for help. Starting a conversation about your concerns can feel difficult and confrontational, and you may avoid the topic because you’re concerned you’ll make the situation worse or place suicidal thoughts into their mind. But that’s not the case. When someone reaches out and offers support, it reduces a person’s sense of isolation and immediately decreases their risk of suicide.
Help and hope for suicide prevention
We may never truly know why a person died by suicide. But by starting the conversation, we can begin to learn and understand the impact mental illness has on people who are at risk and how we can better support them in the moments they need it most.
“Some people view suicide as a selfish act, but for Mark, it was anything but. I’m sure this is the case for most other people who choose this route, which is why we need to improve our understanding of illnesses such as depression and make those suffering realise that it isn’t their only option.” – Clare Francis, writing about her husband’s suicide.
If you yourself are distressed or someone you know is in crisis or immediate danger, please remember help is always available. For suicide crisis and prevention call 9-1-1 or get support from a local crisis centre. There is also the Kids Help Phone, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line, 1 866 APPELLE (Quebec residents) and the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566), that all offer 24/7 support.
Download Snapclarity to access mental healthcare, when you need it.