Every day, an average of 10 or more Canadians will die by suicide (and an estimated 4,000 will die each year), while an even greater number of Canadians say they’ve experience suicidal thoughts or attempts. There is also a significant impact on friends and loved ones of those lost to suicide. For many people, suicide can be a very difficult and even uncomfortable subject to talk about. However, having open discussions about it is key to preventing it and finding help for those who may be struggling with their mental health.

Among those most at risk of suicide in Canada include the following:

• Males
• Youth and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24
• Those in First Nation and Metis communities, as well as Inuit regions

Other risk factors include:

• Individuals who have a history of mental illness or untreated mental illness
• Individuals with previous suicide attempts
• Family history of mental illness or suicide
• Those suffering with physical health conditions, such as chronic pain
• Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
• Domestic violence
• Being bullied
• Traumatic brain injuries
• Stressful life events such as financial hardships, divorce of death of a loved one

When it comes to the warning signs that someone may be considering suicide, there are also many things to look out for, from behavioural changes, to mood, to the things they talk about, including the following:

• Talking about wanting to kill themselves
• Saying they feel hopeless
• Feeling like they have no reason to live
• Increased use of alcohol
• Illicit drug use
• Isolating themselves from friends or family
• Sleeping more or less
• Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
• Aggression
• Irritability
• Anxiety
• Depression

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and considering suicide, it’s important to know that help is out there. First, start by speaking to a trusted individual. This can be anyone from a friend to a family member, or a physician. You can also contact Canada Suicide Prevention Service by phone, 24/7, at 1-833-456-4566, or by texting 45645 from 4 PM to Midnight EST. This is a free service that is available to all Canadians. If you are between the ages of 5 to 25, you can also contact the Kids Help Phone for free telephone counselling at 1-800-668-6868. While not all suicides can be preventing, having a good support network and building strategies (such as coping skills) can help reduce the risk and improve one’s well-being. If you think you are at risk, the Canadian Mental Health Association also recommends coming up with safety plan, which may include having a list of numbers of people you can call if you’re worried about your health or safety, along with a list of numbers for suicide prevention lines, a list of safe places to go if you feel unsafe at home, and a list of different activities you can do to keep your mind off of your thoughts.

If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one may be considering suicide, talk to them about it. As mentioned, it can be an uncomfortable subject to want to bring up, but that person may ultimately feel relieved that there is someone willing to have that discussion with them. When talking with someone who might be suicidal, it’s important that you provide them with reassurance and let them know they’re important, and that you do not judge them. If you think someone is in immediate danger, however, it’s also important that you call 9-1-1.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been an increase in the number of Canadians thinking about suicide, increasing by as much as 18% in those who already have a mental illness, 16% in Indigenous people, 15% in people with disabilities, 14% in individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, and 9% in parents of kids under the age of 18.

For more information and resources on mental health, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at CMHA.ca.