Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

depressionAround the world one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. The suicide rate for Canadians, as measured by the WHO, is 15 per 100,000 people. 

Although individual motives for suicide vary, there are some common warning signs. These signs may indicate that someone is at risk or is having personal, family or school problems. They are usually physical, emotional and behavioural in nature: 

Physical Signs

  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Sudden changes in manner of dress, especially when the new style is completely out of character
  • Chronic or unexplained illness, aches and pains
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Sudden change in appetite

Emotional Clues

  • Sense of hopelessness, helplessness or futility
  • Inability to enjoy or appreciate friendships
  • Wide mood changes and sudden outbursts
  • Anxiousness, extreme tension and agitation
  • Lethargy or tiredness
  • Changes in personality: from outgoing to withdrawn, from polite to rude, from compliant to rebellious, from well-behaved to "acting out"
  • Loss of the ability to concentrate; daydreaming
  • Depression, sadness
  • Loss of rational thought
  • Feelings of guilt and failure
  • Self-destructive thoughts
  • Exaggerated fears of cancer, AIDS or physical impairment
  • Feelings of worthlessness or of being a burden
  • Loss of enjoyment from activities formerly enjoyed

Behavioral Signs

  • Decreased school activity; isolation. Sudden drop in achievement and interest in school subjects
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, work etc.
  • Unexplained use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Withdrawal from family and former friends, sometimes acting in a manner which forces others away
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Changes in friendship
  • Running away from home; "skipping school"
  • Accident proneness and increase in risk-taking behaviour such as careless driving, bike accidents, dangerous use of firearms
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Giving away prized possessions 
  • Preoccupation with thoughts of death
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Making a will; writing poetry or stories about suicide or death
  • Quietly putting affairs in order, "taking care of business"
  • Threatening suicide
  • Hoarding pills, hiding weapons, describing methods for committing suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts

The last five behavioural signs are especially significant because they indicate a decision to complete suicide may have been made.  

If you suspect someone of being at risk of committing suicide, know that there are many resources available for you to help that person.

Suicide Action Montreal (SAM) offers support services, crisis workers and monitoring of people who are at risk of committing suicide (514-723-4000).

At The Montreal Children's Hospital, a crisis intervention team works in the Emergency Department to help children and teens who are in crisis to recover. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.