World Suicide Prevention Day September 10th is a chance for those impacted by a suicide attempt or loss; family and friends, community organizations and all community members.
Why Do People Choose Suicide?
Suicide should not be attributed to one single cause. It is a very complex issue and differs between individuals. Not everyone who has attempted or completed suicide is diagnosed with a mental illness. On the contrary, not everyone with a mental illness has or will attempt suicide.
Those who experience suicidal thoughts typically have overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair and sometimes anger. This is not a moral weakness or character flaw. Most feel as though their pain will never end and taking their life is the only way to end these feelings.
There are many different factors and circumstances that contribute to an individuals decision to attempt and complete suicide. These factors are not always mental illness. It could be contributed to a personal loss, addiction, trauma, physical illness, or even major life changes.
Suicide is a critical public health crisis in Canada and ranked the 9th leading cause of death. While males are three times more likely to die by suicide, females are three times more likely to make a suicide attempt. This discrepancy is likely due to the fact that females tend to use less immediately lethal methods. Based on reports from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.7% of Canadians have thought about suicide and 3.5% have attempted suicide in their lifetime. While these numbers may seem low to some, Statistics Canada reported between 2014 and 2018 there were an average of 4,121 suicides each year. Suicide will leave up to 100 people in the state of bereavement, which totals at over 400,000 people grieving the loss of loved ones each year.
How Can Suicide Be Prevented?
Sometimes we need to break confidentiality. If someone expresses their thoughts of suicide, never keep that secret. Many who have experienced a loss from suicide will tell you, it is better to have someone alive and mad at you, rather than dead by suicide. It is often a regret of missed opportunity to keep loved ones safe and alive. That being said, sometimes we cannot help. Sometimes individuals will make these choices without confiding in someone they trust. Talking about suicide can provide a tremendous amount of relief and hope, and is often the best intervention.
Suicide can be prevented through a number of measures. These can be taken at a personal, community and national levels, including :
- listen, care, validate
- be non-judgemental and empathetic
- reducing access to the means of suicide:
pesticides, medication, guns, others;
- treating people with mental disorders:
depression, alcoholism, or schizophrenia, others;
- listen to your loved ones feelings
- providing support and understanding
- following-up with those who have attempted suicide;
- providing training to health care workers and advocates;
- promote the importance of mental health
- take warning signs and threats seriously
- never use clichés or debate with the person
- draw on local resources
The American Association of Suicidology developed a simple tool that we can all use to remember the warning signs of suicide. This tool is called “IS PATH WARM” and outlines the key points to remember.
Grieving Loss by Suicide
You are not alone. The loss of a loved one by suicide does not diminish our love for them, their value, the contributions they made to our families and communities, and the way we honour their lives. We do not define a person by how they died, but rather how they lived.
It is important to take time to grieve, at whatever pace feels best for you. It is necessary to feel the pain of a suicide loss in order to gain relief, although you may never feel fully resolved. This will be an emotional experience. Most people will not automatically know what you need or how to help, so it is important to talk to those you trust.
There will be many emotions to work through as a reaction to suicide loss. It is likely that suicide bereavement will be one of the most intensely painful life experiences. The pain is often so overwhelming, you will experience numbness that causes your natural defence mechanisms to shut down. In the midst of this deep sadness, you likely will also experience anger, blame and guilt. It is of the upmost importance that you do not take this out on yourself. Never blame yourself for the actions you cannot control. You are not alone to think you may have missed a sign and could have done more to help.
Remember to work through all these emotions at your own pace and reach out for support when you need it. There are many support groups, grief counselors and loved ones that can help you through this time. Please contact your local Canadian Mental Health Association for more resources.
Although, these words may not help now, just remember to be kind to yourself.