We are here to listen, here to help - Any time.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE).
Frequently Asked Questions
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about suicide to help raise awareness and dispel some of the common myths about suicide:
We know that those at risk for suicide do not necessarily want to die, but do want help in reducing the pain they are experiencing so that they can go on to lead productive, fulfilling lives. There is a lot of ambivalence surrounding the decision to take one’s own life, and by recognizing this, and discussing it, we can help the person thinking of suicide start to recognize alternative options for managing their suffering. Often, people thinking of suicide are experiencing intolerable emotional pain, which they believe to be unrelenting. They often feel hopeless and trapped. By helping them to recognize and explore alternatives to dying, you are planting the seeds of hope that things can improve.
There is no research evidence that indicates talking to people about suicide, in the context of care, respect, and prevention, increases their risk of suicide ideation or suicide behaviours. Research does indicate that talking openly and responsibly about suicide lets a person potentially thinking of suicide know they do not have to be alone, that there are people who want to listen and who want to help. Most people are relieved to finally be able to talk honestly about their feelings, and this alone can reduce the risk of an attempt.
To answer this question, we must first explore what it means to have attention-seeking behaviours. People need connection to live meaningful lives and cope effectively. Regardless of someone’s intention to die, we recognize a need for attention or connection as an indicator of asking for help. Through this lens, the way people choose to discuss their thoughts of suicide or intention to die is never to draw attention but instead, seek connection. Research indicates that up to 80% of people thinking about suicide signal their intentions to others in the hope that the signal will be recognized as a need for human connection.
A suicide attempt is an indicator that an individual's capacity for coping has hit zero. It is important to treat all attempts as serious. Once an attempt is made at any level of lethality, the risk for future and more serious attempts increases significantly.
Hopefully, if a person seems better, they are indeed feeling better and are no longer considering suicide. HOWEVER, this apparent upswing in mood could also be an indicator of an increased risk of suicide. Sometimes, a person thinking about suicide might feel relief that they have finally come to a decision – the emotional conflict over living or dying has been resolved. The best way to determine if a person’s improved mood is related to decreased or increased risk of suicide is to have a direct and open discussion about suicide.
About 80 percent of people who attempt or complete suicide send out warning signs to those around them, although they may not make a direct plea for help. Some warning signs may include:
- Talking or joking about suicide or dying;
- Making preparations for death such as giving away significant possessions, making a will, writing a suicide note, clearing up loose ends;
- A previous suicide attempt; the suicide of someone important;
- Being persistently depressed or down for more than a couple of weeks; protracted anxiety or agitation; extreme mood swings/bipolarity; outbursts of rage, grief, violence;
- Isolation, withdrawal from previously enjoyed relationships and activities;
- Lethargy, lack of interest, low energy, insomnia or oversleeping;
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs;
- Uncharacteristic high-risk activity, impulsive behaviours
- Expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, purposelessness
- Low self-esteem, low self-worth, self-contempt, anger toward self;
- Significant loss(es), such as important relationship, health, identity, economic security, freedom.
It is important to show the person potentially thinking about suicide that we care and that we are concerned for their safety. It is also important to directly ask the person if they are considering suicide. This shows that we are taking their feelings seriously, and helps to establish if the risk of suicide is real. If you feel uncomfortable asking, it is important that you get someone else to ask. We need to listen to the person – without judgment and by showing empathy. If the person says they are considering suicide, we need to get help for that person by enlisting the help of professionals, such as a family doctor, a mental health professional, a 24-hour crisis line, or even a hospital emergency room if the person is imminently at risk. It is also important to enlist familial, friendship, and social supports. If the person is at imminent risk of harming themselves, do not leave them alone until they have been assessed and received help from a competent and trustworthy professional, or until another trustworthy adult arrives to stay with them.
Suicides can appear to happen fast, or “out of nowhere,” when we have not noticed any indicators of a person's intention to die. Although most people (80%) present a range of indicators to the people around them, it is common to miss these warning signs.
Suicides are also rarely the result of a single traumatic loss or change. Usually, there are many contributing factors and events that have developed or occurred over a period of time. A sudden traumatic event may be the ‘trigger’ event that moves a person to end their life, but it is unlikely the only cause.
Research suggests that 70 to 90 percent of people who have made an attempt, or died by suicide, were suffering from one or more unmanaged mental health issues – such as depression or anxiety, bipolarity, psychosis, and/or substance use disorder. While the presence of an unmanaged mental health issue can be associated with suicide, it is important to note that most people assessed with a mental illness are not at risk of suicide, and that few suicides are wholly the result of a mental illness.
Feeling like you can no longer cope? You might feel as if you have no other choice or no other options, but suicide is not your only choice; there are resources and people available to help you.
Please reach out for help - call a crisis centre (1-888-562-1214), talk to a professional, or a friend.
We are here to support you 24/7, pick up the phone today.
Youth Support Line
A confidential peer support service operated by trained youth answering calls from other youth. Text from 4-10PM or call 24/7.
310Mental Health Line
For emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.
24-Hour Crisis Line
A confidential and non-judgmental crisis line to discuss anything troubling you. If it is a crisis to you, it is a crisis to us.
If you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be.