Suicide is something that is often difficult to talk about openly, yet it is more common than many people think. Those with a serious physical or mental illness, those who are using alcohol or drugs, or those who are experiencing a loss or major life change are most likely to attempt suicide.

The circumstances that can lead someone to take their own life are varied, but all people who consider suicide feel that life is unbearable. They sense extreme hopelessness, helplessness, and desperation.

By learning about and paying attention to warning signs, even if it means asking uncomfortable or embarrassing questions, loved ones can help prevent a suicide and help access professional assistance for those feeling suicidal.

The complex sense of loss after a suicide can be overwhelming, and specific programs designed to help survivors of suicide are available.

Warning signs of someone at risk of suicide may include:

  • Repeated expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, or desperation;
  • Behaviour that is out of character, such as recklessness in someone who is normally careful;
  • Signs of depression, such as sleeplessness, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, loss of interest in usual activities;
  • A sudden and unexpected change to a cheerful attitude;
  • Giving away prized possessions to friends and family, making a will, taking out insurance, or other preparations for death, such as telling final wishes to someone close;
  • Making remarks related to death and dying, or expressing an intent to commit suicide. An expressed intent to commit suicide should always be taken very seriously.

Preventing a suicide attempt

If you are concerned that someone may be suicidal, take action immediately. Talking with them is a great way to help. Practice active listening, and help them create a plan to find assistance.