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Guest Post - Suicide Prevention: When It’s Time To Get Help

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, suicide is the ninth leading cause of death, and sadly, it’s also the second leading cause of death among individuals ranging from 10 to 29 years of age. There’s no getting around it: Suicide is a devastating epidemic. You never know if you might need help one day, or if someone you love and care about may need help. With that said, it’s important to learn as much as possible when it comes to suicide prevention and emotional wellness. In 2017, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse reported that fewer than 90% of Canadians who died from suicide either had a mental illness or a substance use disorder at the time they passed. While these two are not direct reasons for someone becoming suicidal, having one or both significantly puts someone at greater risk for committing suicide. Remember: Any time you know someone is struggling with either of these, especially addiction, encourage them to seek help from a treatment center.

The warning signs of suicide can be difficult to recognize because it’s not always obvious, particularly when it comes to someone who is struggling with addiction. Loved ones who are fighting with addiction may hide their illness for various reasons; for example, they may not want a confrontation or to cause disappointment or sadness. In other instances, they may not be ready to stop, or they may want to quit, but they’re too overwhelmed by shame and the desire to still use. Whatever the case may be, it’s imperative to keep in mind that substance use can serve as a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, as the use continues to spiral out of control, it can result in fatal consequences, whether those are accidental or intentional. This not only claims the life of that individual, but it also deeply affects family and friends. No one wants to see their loved one die, and certainly not from something that is preventable.

Depression is part of the route to suicide. When someone is depressed, they usually do the following:

  • Withdraw from family, friends and work.

  • Seem lonely.

  • Stop showing interest or joy in activities that were previously seen as fun.

  • Have trouble focusing or concentrating.

  • Experience changes with sleep and appetite (usually sleeping and eating less than before or less than they should).

When an individual has surpassed depression and contemplated suicide, the individual will likely do the following:

  • Have thoughts about making the pain stop.

  • Resort to creating plans to make the pain stop.

  • Have a hopeless outlook. (Problems may be discussed, but there are no solutions in sight.)

  • Give away personal items.

  • Exhibit careless behavior.

Individuals may also experience psychotic symptoms like auditory or visual hallucinations. Something else to look out for is history:

  • Has the individual tried attempting suicide before?

  • Is there a history of mental illness or substance abuse?

  • Is there a family history of suicide, mental illness or substance abuse?

Anytime these symptoms are present, consider them as warning signs that indicate it's time to seek help. If your loved one is also battling addiction, the combination of the two can lead to quick, reckless decisions, so it’s important to act with a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, preventing suicide, overcoming drug addiction, and creating emotional wellness are processes that call for time, energy and commitment from several individuals. It requires the person facing those issues directly to have a willingness to seek help, and family and friends supporting those individuals to have compassion and the ability to show empathy. The truth of the matter is that no one truly has an intent to explore suicide or addiction. These two paths happen over the course of time due to life, choices and lack of emotional wellness. It’s time to reclaim life and its beautiful possibilities for all of us.

- Melissa Howard, Head of Prevention Outreach

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Suicide can be prevented. Help is out there. You are not alone.

If you are in crisis:

  • Call 911

  • Contact a call centre in Canada near you

  • In Edmonton/Northern Alberta: call (780) 482-HELP (4357) or 1-800-232-7288 - a 24/7 crisis help line.

  • In non-crisis situations, dial 211 for help finding resources for counselling, support groups, and health care from the Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region.

  • Call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

  • Find someone you trust and let them know

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