Suicide—factors and prevention

Suicide is a global health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States—and 2nd amongst 10-34 year olds. It’s the 9th leading cause of death in Canada—2nd among those aged 15-34.

There’s no one single cause that can explain it or predict it. But there are factors that may increase the risk of suicide. They are:

  •      A prior suicide attempt
  •      Mental illness (like depression)
  •      A feeling of hopelessness/helplessness
  •      Misuse of alcohol or drugs
  •      Long term pain or illness
  •      Trauma like domestic violence, bullying, childhood neglect or abuse, a suicide by a family member or friend, and events that affect multiple generations of your family

Other factors that can increase suicide risk are:

  •      Significant losses (like relationships and job loss)
  •      Major life changes (like unemployment, the death of a loved one)
  •      Major stressors
  •      Lack of access to mental health services
  •      Personal identity struggles (sexual, cultural)
  •      Lack of support
  •      A feeling of isolation

There are several warning signs that might indicate someone is at risk of suicide. They include:

  •      Someone talking about suicide or sharing a plan
  •      Withdrawing from friends, family, or usual activities
  •      Feelings of hopelessness or like you have not purpose or meaning
  •      An increase in substance abuse like alcohol or drugs
  •      Feeling trapped in a tough situation
  •      Having anxiety or big mood changes like anger and sadness

Many things can help to guard against suicide. They include being mentally healthy, and having a good sense of hope, purpose and social support. Also important is to have a strong sense of personal identity and a supporting environment, positive relationships with family and peers, good access to appropriate mental health services and support, and being adaptable in times of challenge and change.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts or you know someone who might be, remember these things from (

  1.     Your emotions are not fixed—how you’re feeling now might be different tomorrow
  2.     If you are gone, friends and loved ones will be devastated
  3.     There is so much you can still accomplish
  4.     If you are gone, you will miss out on potentially wonderful experiences
  5.     The problems that seem hopeless have solutions

If you are having suicidal thoughts, here are some steps to take:

  1.     Don’t act on your suicidal thoughts right now. Give yourself some time.
  2.     Avoid drugs and alcohol. When you’re feeling hopeless and having suicidal thoughts, these can make it worse.
  3.     Make your home a safe place. Get rid of anything that might be dangerous to your health and well-being.
  4.     Talk to someone. If there’s nobody you can think of right now, try a helpline.
  5.     Remember that there is hope. People live through suicidal thoughts and you can be one of them. Check out this article for some real stories of hope.

For help in Canada, please see:

For help in the United States, please see: