What is Suicide?

Suicide is when someone ends his or her life on purpose. However, most people who are thinking about suicide do not actually want to die. They just want to end their physical or emotional pain.

*Suicide is not a mental illness. Not all people who die by suicide have experienced a mental illness, but suicide is often linked to many different mental illnesses. It is important to take any talk or thoughts of suicide seriously and seek help immediately.

What if I am Having Thoughts of Suicide?

If you are having thoughts of suicide, it is important to tell an adult you trust right away. This could be a parent, a friend’s parent, your aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a teacher, your family doctor or a school counsellor. Suicide may seem like an answer to the emotional or physical pain you are feeling, but there is help available and you can feel better.

Other things you can do are:

  • Call a crisis line, like the Distress Centre (403-266-4537), the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), or the Out is Okay line (1-877-688-4765)
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Make sure you are not alone
  • Write a list of places you feel safe if you don’t feel safe at home
  • Don’t use drugs or alcohol
  • Call 9-1-1 or ask a friend to call for you if you feel you are a danger to yourself or others

What if My Friend is Having Thoughts of Suicide?

A friend might tell you they are having thoughts of suicide or they might show signs they are considering it. It is important to take every conversation about suicide seriously, to not judge the person talking about it and to seek help from a trusted adult right away. Other things you can do if someone is talking to you about suicide are:

  • Take the situation seriously by asking, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
  • Be calm and listen
  • Show that you care and be honest about what you are feeling
  • Ask them to talk about the reasons they are thinking about suicide
  • Help them pick out adults they trust, and then seek help from those adults immediately
  • If your friend refuses to talk to an adult about their feelings of suicide, then you need to tell an adult you trust right away to make sure they get the help they need
  • Take care of yourself: make sure you talk to someone about how you are feeling about what you’ve been told and seek support to work through your own stress
  • Call a crisis line such as the Distress Centre (403-266-4357)
  • Call 9-1-1 if you or the person you know are in danger right now

Things You Shouldn’t do if Someone Tells You They are Having Thoughts of Suicide

  • Act shocked or embarrassed
  • Challenge, judge or criticize the person
  • Talk as if their problem is small or shouldn’t bother them
  • Keep it a secret

What are the Warning Signs?

People considering suicide may show warning signs or hints they are having these thoughts. If someone you know is considering suicide, you may notice:


They might be feeling:

  • Loneliness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Poor outlook on future
  • Lack of emotion

You might spot sudden change in their behaviour patterns like:

  • Sleeping and eating
  • Appearance, personal hygiene and self-care
  • Academic performance
  • Change in mood
  • Withdrawal/isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increased risk-taking behaviours
  • Thinking or talking a lot about death
  • Writing or drawing about suicide
  • Increase use of drugs or alcohol
  • Making a plan for suicide

In a private or group conversation, a text, a Facebook status, a Tweet, or any other type of communication, they might say something like:

  • What’s the point?
  • I am going to go away
  • No one cares if I live or die
  • Life sucks and isn’t worth it
  • I shouldn’t have been born
  • I wish I were dead
  • I am going to end it all
  • All of my problems will soon end

Why do People Have Thoughts of Suicide?

There are experiences in life that may cause a person to feel emotional or physical pain. Their problem or situation might feel too big to handle and they might think suicide is the only way out.

Reasons someone might consider suicide are

  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicidal behaviour
  • A serious physical or mental illness
  • Problems with drugs or alcohol
  • A major loss, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job or divorce
  • Major life changes or transitions, like those experienced by teens and seniors
  • Feeling alone
  • Family violence

If someone is experiencing challenges or is struggling in their life, it does not mean they are having thoughts of suicide. If you are unsure, tell an adult you trust. You can also start by asking the person, “How are you doing?” and listening to their response.
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