What Every Student Needs To Know About Teen Suicide

by | Health, Parent Resources

What to do if you or someone you know is suicidal

It used to be a taboo topic and is increasingly brought to our attention in the mainstream media. Now that we have a better understanding of teen suicide and mental health issues as a society it’s more acceptable and easier to talk about this.

Every year in Canada over 200 teens die from suicide.  In 2009, in Canada, there were 145 male suicides (and a 12.6 per 100,000 suicide rate) in the 15-19 age range. For females there were a total of 57 deaths (and a corresponding suicide rate of 5.2 per 100,000).These numbers rise sharply (especially for males) when they reach their twenties and beyond. See Statistics Canada for recent figures.

Teen suicide is rare and difficult to predict accurately. There are, however warning signs and certain changes in behaviours that are common among people who commit suicide.

Warning signs and behaviours to look for include:

  • Talking about dying – repeatedly talking about dying, disappearing, shooting oneself, or other self harm.
  • Recent loss – through death, parents separating and other  broken relationships
  • Change in personality – being  increasingly sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, apathetic.
  • Change in behaviour – inability to concentrate on school, work, routine tasks.
  • Change in sleep patterns – insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping and nightmares.
  • Change in eating habits – loss of appetite and weight or overeating.
  • Fear of losing control – acting erratically, harming self or others.
  • Low self esteem – feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”.
  • No hope for the future – believing things will never get better.

The first steps to cope with suicidal thoughts:

  1. Tell someone – share your feelings with your close friends or family. Talking to other people you trust like a teacher, therapist or school counsellor can provide support. Sometimes just talking about your feelings can make you start to feel better. You can find a list of crisis support providers at The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) to call here.
  2. Avoid drugs and alcohol – suicidal thoughts can increase if you take certain drugs or alcohol.  Drinking or taking nonprescription drugs should be avoided if possible.
  3. Make a safe space -Remove things that you could use to hurt yourself. If you have things such as knives, firearms or pills nearby you should remove them from your environment so you don’t hurt yourself.

Remember,  suicidal feelings are usually associated with problems that can be treated. It is not a permanent affliction and suicidal thought crises are almost always a temporary

3 Ways to recover from suicidal thoughts and feelings:

  1. Identify primary causes and trigger situations – There are usually certain activities that are connected with suicidal thoughts. Identify what these situations or triggers are and see if you can remove them from your life as much as possible.
  2. Develop new habits, interests and activities – Along with removing the bad triggers and situations from your life it is also equally important that you add in new habits and activities to focus on. When you’re keeping busy doing something new, especially if it’s fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and the negative thoughts won’t bother you so much.
  3. Build your social support network – Having a circle of friends, family and people you trust in your life can help you when you’re feeling especially low. If you haven’t already, cultivate these healthy relationships to support you.

Have you or anyone you know ever experienced suicidal thoughts?

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