British Columbia Specific Information
Emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health are available from Mental Health Support offered by the Crisis Lines Association of British Columbia by calling 310-6789. You may also visit BC Mental Health & Addiction Services or HereToHelp for additional resources and services. Children and teens can also call the Kids Help Phone to speak to a counsellor at 1-800-668-6868 or visit Kids Help Phone for information on the resources and support available.
Suicide assessment and intervention are available from Crisis Lines across British Columbia by calling the Crisis Line Association of British Columbia at 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE). For more places to get help, visit Crisis Centre – Get Help. If you are in an emergency, call 9-1-1.
Suicide occurs almost twice as often as murder. Each year, about 3,800 people in Canada die by suicide. In Canada:footnote 1
- Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people ages 15 to 44.
- Men are 4 times more likely than women to die from a suicide attempt.
- 1 in 5 deaths among young adults ages 15 to 24 are from suicide.
- Men use firearms and hanging methods of suicide more often than women.
- Suicide rates are much higher in some Indigenous communities.
Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to try suicide. Your risk of suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.
Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:
- A personal or family history of suicide attempts
- A family history of suicide attempts or completed suicide
- A personal or family history of severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia
- Substance use disorder, such as alcohol use disorder
The warning signs of suicide change with age.
- Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may include preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a relationship.
- Warning signs of suicide in adults may include recent job loss, or divorce.
- Warning signs of suicide in older adults may include the recent death of a partner or diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.
Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. A suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken seriously. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.
People who have suicidal thoughts may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical conditions that can be successfully treated. People who have suicidal thoughts often have depression or substance use disorder, and both of these conditions can be treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because medical treatment usually is successful in diminishing these thoughts.
The possibility of suicide is most serious when a person has a plan for suicide that includes:
- Having the means, such as weapons or medicines, available to try suicide or do harm to another person.
- Having set a time and place to try suicide.
- Thinking there is no other way to solve the problem or end the pain.
People who are considering suicide often are undecided about choosing life or death. With compassionate help, they may choose to live.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor or get other help.
Check Your Symptoms
The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.
- If you are transgender or non-binary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
- If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
- If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
- Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
- Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
- Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, or natural health products can cause symptoms or make them worse.
- Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
- Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.
Try Home Treatment
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
- Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
- Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.
The risk of a suicide attempt is highest if:
- You have the means to kill yourself, such as a weapon or medicines.
- You have set a time and place to do it.
- You think there is no other way to solve the problem or end the pain.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
- Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
- You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
- You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
- You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
- Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
- If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
- If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone about your feelings. It is important to remember that there are people who are willing and able to talk with you about your suicidal thoughts. With proper treatment, most suicidal people can be helped to feel better about life.
People for you to consider talking with include:
- A family member, friend, or spiritual adviser.
- Your health professional, such as a doctor or counsellor.
- Other mental health resources, such as a community mental health agency or employee assistance program.
- Check your local phone book or provincial website for resources on getting help in your area.
Tips for family and friends
You may be able to help someone who is considering suicide.
- If the suicide threat seems real, and the person has a specific suicide plan:
- Call 911 (or the police if 911 is not available) in order to prevent the person from carrying out the threat.
- Consider your own safety. If you are in a safe environment and the person will not harm you:
- Stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until help arrives.
- Don't argue with the person or make statements like "It's not as bad as you think," and don't challenge the person by saying "You're not the type to try suicide." Arguing with the person may only increase his or her feelings of being out of control of his or her life.
- Talk about the situation as openly as possible. Tell the person that you don't want him or her to die or to harm another person. Show understanding and compassion.
- If you think that someone you know has made a suicide plan, call your health professional.
- Your health professional may be able to help identify a mental health specialist and arrange an appointment for a person you think is considering suicide. An appointment with your health professional may not be needed.
- If you are not able to talk with your health professional, check your local phone book or provincial website for resources on getting help in your area.
- Once a treatment plan has been developed, you may be able to assist the person get the help he or she needs.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur before you see your health professional:
- The warning signs for the suicide threat, such as having a plan for suicide, are real.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without warning, most do not. You can learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide and take action when the signs are present. Take action to evaluate your suspicions if you think that someone you know is considering suicide.
- The warning signs of suicide change with age. Know the warning signs of suicide:
- Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may include preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a relationship.
- Warning signs of suicide in adults include recent job loss,or divorce.
- Warning signs of suicide in older adults include the recent death of a partner or diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.
- Take all warning signs seriously, even if the suicidal threat or attempt seems minor. Take any conversation about suicide seriously, even if the person mentions it in a joking manner.
- Don't be afraid to ask "What is the matter?" or bring up the subject of suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide.
- Be willing to listen. If a family member, friend, or co-worker talks about suicide or wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.
- Help the person make arrangements to see a doctor or mental health professional immediately.
- Since a suicidal person may feel he or she cannot be helped, you may have to take an active role in finding a health professional and getting the person to the appointment.
- If you are unfamiliar with mental health resources in your area, check your local phone book or provincial website for resources on getting help in your area.
- Make sure the person will have someone with him or her at all times until contact is made with a mental health professional.
- Help the person identify other potential sources of support from people who care about him or her, such as family, friends, or spiritual adviser.
- Follow up to find out how the person's treatment is going. A suicidal person may be reluctant to seek help and may not continue with treatment after the first visit with a health professional. Your support may help the person decide to continue treatment.
- Remove all guns from the home. Studies have shown that suicide attempts are more likely to lead to death in homes that have a gun, even if the gun is kept unloaded and securely locked up.
- Discard all prescription and non-prescription medicines that are not currently being used.
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic
Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- How long have you had suicidal thoughts?
- How often do you think about suicide?
- What was going on in your life when you first noticed the depressed or suicidal feelings?
- Have you ever had similar thoughts in the past? If so, did you seek and receive treatment?
- Have you attempted suicide in the past? If so, did you seek and receive treatment?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as severe anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia?
- Has a family member or close friend ever tried suicide or died by suicide?
- Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as depression or schizophrenia?
- Have you had a recent stressful event in your life?
- Do you keep guns in your home?
- Are you a regular or heavy user of alcohol or illegal drugs? Have you used alcohol or illegal drugs to reduce symptoms of depression?
- Are you taking any prescription or non-prescription medicine? If so, make a list of your medicines and take it with you.
- Are you taking a medicine to treat depression? What is the medicine? When did you start the medicine?
- Do you have any risk factors that make you more likely to have suicidal thoughts?
- Health Canada (2009). It's your health: Suicide prevention. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/diseases-maladies/suicide-eng.php.
Current as of:
February 26, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger MD
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