Suicide Prevention Day: A reminder to keep talking about suicide

This blog is by Laurel L. Johnson, Ph.D., C.Psych., Clinical Director, Community Mental Health, Kinark Child and Family Services

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. In 2015, I wrote the following blog. Even though time has passed, here is what I shared with you that still holds true:

The statistics are staggering: Do not ignore them.

Suicide accounts for approximately one in four deaths among 15-24 year olds and is the leading cause of death, after accidents, for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. One in ten students in grades 7 through 12 reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and about three per cent admitted that they attempted suicide.

Know the risk factors for suicide

Although the reasons for suicide can vary, to keep alert for red flags and intervene immediately. Here are some key risks and warning signs to keep an eye out for:

  • A recent and/or serious loss. This might include the death of a loved one or even pet. Parent separation/divorce or breakup with a partner could all be felt as a profound loss. In addition, a significant loss of possessions, such as in a fire or the family losing their home could also be impactful.
  • A mental health disorder, particularly a mood disorder such as depression, or a trauma and/or stress-related disorder, as well as alcohol and other substance use disorders. The combination of depression and substance use disorder increase the risk of suicide (as was the case with Robin Williams).
  • Engaging in high risk behaviours, including self-mutilation or harm, breaking the law, fighting, being particularly impulsive, changes or extremes in behavior and having disciplinary problems or breaking the law.
  • Failing academic performance, upcoming exams or exam results.
  • Struggling with sexual orientation in an unsupportive environment.
  • Lack of social support and isolation from significant others.
  • Fighting or bullying; both being a victim of bullying and also engaging in bulling behaviour.
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that promote suicide as noble.
  • A family history of suicide is something, as well as an exposure to domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
  • Writing about suicide or death.
  • Physical changes including a sudden change in appearance, lack of energy or disturbed sleep, sudden weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, change in sexual interest, increases in minor illnesses.
  • Prior suicide attempts certainly increase the risk for another suicide attempt.

Keep the lines of communication open

Unfortunately, not all warning signs are obvious. For this reason, talking to your kids is key. Talk to your kids about their day to day lives, and even if they show hesitation it’s important to keep the dialogue going, and seek help if you feel it is necessary.

In addition to a strong connection to yourself and loved ones, there are a few other protective factors that decrease the risks of suicide:

  • Good problem-solving abilities.
  • Strong connection to the community and peers.
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide.
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation.
  • Access to appropriate medical and clinical intervention, as well as effective care for mental, physical, and substance use disorders.

Need help?

Additionally, access any available resources, if you suspect your child or youth needs help. Here are a few:

Kinark Child and Family Services: Central Intake

1-888-454-6275

Kinark’s Central Intake is the front door for children, youth and families who may be struggling with a mental health issue. It is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Intake is closed weekends and all statutory holidays.

After business hours, please leave a message and your call will be returned within one business day.

Canadian Mental Health Association

http://www.cmha.ca/

Kids Help Phone

1-800-668-6868

If you or your child is in crisis:

Please contact Mental Health Hotline Ontario: 1-866-531-2600 orhttp://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/ or visit the closest hospital.

Emergency

If you require emergency services please visit your closest hospital or dial 911 on your telephone to reach Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The value of having someone to talk to

Today, the world will be marking World Suicide Prevention Day. People all over the world will be coming up with ways to talk about suicide, raise awareness and remove stigma.

Never underestimate the impact your support can have on a child. When children and youth who are dealing with suicidal thoughts feel like they have somebody to talk to, or somewhere to go for help, it can be the difference between life and death.

Let’s not only remember the individual lives lost to suicide, but also reflect on what we can do, as parents, other family and friends of children and teens.

Keep learning and keep talking, so our kids don’t ever think their lives aren’t worth living.