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Suicide Risk and Prevention

The recent news that Kate Spade, fashion icon, died by suicide has sent shock waves throughout the world.  How can someone so successful and famous who seemingly had everything going for her choose to end her life?  Suicide, however, is a complex issue and does not discriminate.  People of all genders, ages, socioeconomic status and ethnicities can be at risk.  And the risk is rising across all ages and genders.  While there are certain risk factors (depression or other mental health problem, substance abuse, history of sexual abuse, a major loss or life change, being male or middle aged), suicide risk can actually be difficult to assess.  Party because suicide is in fact a complex issue and cannot be attributed to a single cause. And while mental illness is one of the most important risk factors for suicide, not everyone who attempts suicide has a mental health problem.  Men are more likely to commit suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide compared to men.  In Canada, the ratio of male to female ratio is approximately 3:1 with men being more at risk in their 40s and again after 80 years of age.  For women, suicide risk increases in their 50s.  Suicide is also the third leading cause of death during adolescence and, alarmingly, the number of suicides among young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 has tripled in recent years.

So what are the warning signs of suicide and what can you do to prevent it?

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Withdrawing from family and friends or social responsibilities
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking risks or acting impulsively, such as reckless driving
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

If you recognize suicidal behaviour in yourself or a loved one, get immediate and professional help.

Though not all suicides can be predicted or prevented, some strategies can help reduce the risk, such as building strong coping strategies, building social support networks, and seeking care and treatment for mental health issues.  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for suicide prevention.

If you or someone you know is in crisis call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service,at:

The Canadian Suicide Prevention service is available across Canada 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.