- Nearly 1,000,000 people die by suicide each year, equivalent to one death by suicide for every 40 seconds (WHO, 2012).
- For every fatal suicide there are at least 20 non-fatal suicides (WHO, 2012).
- Suicide is among the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 - 44 and among the second leading cause of death for 10 - 24 year-olds (WHO, 2012).
- Death by suicide is the 6th leading cause of death for children and youth ages 5 - 14 (AFSP, 2011).
- Suicide rates are presently highest for individuals between the ages of 40 - 59 (ASFP, 2011).
- First Nations and Inuit Communities in Canada experience fatal suicide rates at among the highest in the world at a rate eleven times greater than the National average (WHO, 2012).
What is Suicide?
- Death caused by self–inflicted, intentional injury.
- An act of deliberately killing oneself (World Health Organization, 2012).
- A triumph of pain, loss and fear over hope (Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, 2012).
Shneidman, (1992) suggests that suicide is the outcome of psychological, biological social, and spiritual factors. As these are vast factors he suggests examining suicide by studying commonalities among many suicides. He described the decision to die by suicide as a dialogue occurring within the mind, as a discussion this person is having with him or herself. He furthermore suggests that although contributing factors are important to identify, if we want to prevent suicide, we first need to understand the inter-play of this internal dialogue.
Shneidman, (1985) identified common characteristics shared among the majority of deaths by suicide as follows:
- Overwhelming emotional pain, referred to as psych-ache
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- A foreshortened future and narrowing view of life
Masecar, (2007) indicates that as an individual’s emotional pain occurs on a spectrum of intensity rated as low, moderate, and high. As the pain (psych-ache) increases this results in a more constricted thought process accompanied by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as the individual attempts to cope. When the pain become intolerable, escape seems necessary. Another factor is lethality, which refers to the extent to which a person identifies with suicide as a viable solution. Also rated as low, moderate, and high Masecar states that “It isn’t overwhelming pain that kills us – it is lethality, the idea that suicide is the solution” (p.34). He suggests that if we can help alleviate some of the pain allowing it to become more tolerable, lethality decreases.
If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following signs:
o Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
o Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
o Feeling trapped—like there is no way out
o Feeling anxious, agitated, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
o Showing changes in behaviour, appearance, or mood
o Deliberately injuring themselves
o Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
o Abusing alcohol and/or drugs
o Feeling hopeless or seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
o Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
o Returning of borrowed items, or giving away personal belongings
You can help:
o stay calm and listen
o let them talk about their feelings
o be accepting; do not judge
o ask if they have suicidal thoughts
o take threats seriously
o don't swear secrecy
o tell someone
o Contact: family, friends, relatives, clergy, mental health professionals, counsellors, crisis lines, teachers, doctors, or hospital emergency departments.
*Note - most areas have a local crisis line that is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, as well as mobile crisis intervention teams in some areas. Become familiar with your resources as well as National Resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. These are essential resources to include in safety planning.
There are many great training opportunities (for the general public and professionals). Some examples include:
o TLC’s Online Course on Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention
o SAFE TALK
o Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training
o Interventions Following a Suicide In Schools
o After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
o Trauma Debriefing Handbook
o Confronting Deal in the School Family
The National World Health Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. Learn what other areas around the world are doing to raise awareness and how you can get your community involved in suicide prevention. If you are involved in an initiative in your community I would love for you to share what you are doing with our group!
International Association for Suicide Prevention
American Association for Suicide Prevention
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
The Reasons to go on Living Project: Sharing stories of hope for life
Left Behind by Suicide: Stories of those bereaved by suicide
Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health: Information and resources around seniors and suicide including free Late Life Suicide Prevention Toolkit and training resource
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. (2012). Suicide is a major, sometimes hidden, public health concern in Canada. Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from: http://www.suicideprevention.ca/
Masecar, D. (2007). What is working, what is hopeful. Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from: http://www.creativecounsellingapproaches.org/suicide-prevention-and-intervention-resources.html
Shneidman, E. (1985). Definition of Suicide. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Shneidman, E. (1992). A Conspectus of the Suicidal Scenario. In R. Maris, A. Berman, J. Maltsberger & R. Yufit (Eds.), Assessment and Prediction of Suicde (pp. 31-49). New York: Guilford Press.
World Health Organization. (2012). Suicide. Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from: http://www.who.int/topics/suicide/en/
World Health Organization. (2012). Suicide prevention. Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/