Mental Health & Suicide Prevention

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Suicide is complicated and tragic, it is a tough subject to talk about, but it is preventable. Suicide is defined as intentionally taking one’s own life and comes from the Latin term suicidium which literally means “to kill oneself”.

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year and it is the second leading cause of death among youth (15-29 year olds). There are indications that for each adult who dies of suicide there may be more than 20 others attempting suicide. The impact on families, friends and communities is devastating and far-reaching, even long after persons dear to them have taken their own lives.

Suicide Risk Factors

Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odds of having suicidal thoughts. These include:

  • Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.

  • Family stress/dysfunction.

  • Environmental risks, including exposure to suicide and presence of a firearm in the home.

  • Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence).

  • Genetics is thought to play a role in risk of suicide-- such as family history of mental disorders and substance abuse.

Suicide Warning Signs

Most suicidal individuals demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:

  • Talking about dying: Any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm.

  • Recent loss: Through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies or activities previously enjoyed.

  • Change in personality: Sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive and apathetic.

  • Change in behaviour: Can't concentrate on school, work or routine tasks.

  • Change in sleep patterns: Insomnia, often with early waking, oversleeping or nightmares.

  • Change in eating habits: Loss of appetite and weight or overeating.

  • Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others.

  • Low self-esteem: Feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, "everyone would be better off without me."

  • No hope for the future: Believing things will never get better, or that nothing will ever change.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide is shrouded in stigma, shame and misunderstanding. This means that people often do not or cannot seek adequate help. The taint of the stigma associated with suicide is no simple metaphor for those who are stigmatized.

Many victims suffer from very real psychological scars inflicted by the hurt and shame of attempting suicide or knowing someone who has died by suicide. Misunderstanding, ignorance and fear are the root causes of stigmatization, and these factors have inflected immense suffering on those who are in any way perceived as “not normal”.

The many myths associated with suicide have also contributed to the perseverance of stigma. Notions that people who kill themselves are “cowards” and “selfish” persist to this day, while attempters are often viewed as “attention seekers” who are not taken seriously.

Suicide prevention entails dispelling these myths, and educating and informing the public in an attempt to eliminate stigma (social stigma). Although judgemental attitudes in society are a major obstacle for those needing help, the shame and self-stigma (structural stigma) is also a big problem. It’s the fear of disclosing their insecurities and distress to others.

It is important to understand that no matter how much pain you’re experiencing right now, you’re not alone. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn’t mean that you are crazy, weak or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. But with time and support, you can overcome your problems, the pain and suicidal feelings.

The pain of depression can be treated and hope can be renewed. No matter what your situation, there are people who need you, places where you can make a difference, and experiences that can remind you that life is worth living. It takes real courage to face death and step back from the brink. You can use that courage to face life, to learn coping skills for overcoming depression, and for finding the strength to keep going.

To help keep yourself from feeling suicidal you can seek for treatment, mental health conditions are all treatable with changes in lifestyle, therapy and medication. It may be hard to talk about suicidal feelings, and your friends and family may not fully understand why you feel the way you do. Reach out anyway, and make sure the people who care about you know what's going on and are there when you need them. Feeling connected and supported can help reduce suicide risk.


We as responsible individuals of the society, need to stand up against the stigma surrounding mental health issues and create a new normal. This new normal will place mental and physical health on the same spectrum. The new normal will make talking about mental illness a part of everyday conversation, and it will allow people to no longer be ashamed.

Hopefully with the acceptance of the new normal, it will bring about affordable mental health treatment, better counselling facilities, and a society that is better educated on the issues of mental illness. With a new normal, those with mental illnesses can finally feel like they are a part of society and live without fear of isolation, discrimination, or labelling.

#mental_health #mental_health_matters #mental_health_awareness #mental_stigma #suicide_and_stigma #end_the_stigma #break_the_silence #suicide #suicide_prevention #discrimination #ignorance #awareness #social_stigma #self_stigma

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