Suicidality refers to thoughts and feelings of suicide. This does not mean that a person need be actively trying to end their life, or even talking about it. This means if a young person has thoughts like, “I should just end it all” or “what is the point of living”, they are having thoughts and feelings serious enough to warrant help.
It can be difficult to know if a teen is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, before they become actively suicidal. Typically there will have been a period of depression, withdrawal, erratic behaviour, change in mood or personality, or extreme stress in their lives which leads to a suicidal state. They may say things like, “what’s the point of life anyway”. or, “I wish I was dead”.
Remember: suicide is preventable. If you hear anything that causes you concern from an adolescent please engage with them about what they’re thinking and feeling. Don’t hesitate to ask about “suicide” or even if they are thinking about “harming yourself” or “ending your life”. These are real words to describe a real state of mind and using them will strengthen the quality of connection you have with them in that conversation. It will also give you clear and precise information about their state of mind, so you can help them better.
Signs to look for in those who are seriously contemplating suicide:
- talking about dying — any mention of dying, disappearing, or self-harm
- recent stress or loss — through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, traumatic incident or intense negative experience
- loss of vitality — loss of interest in friends, hobbies, loss of enjoyment of activities previously enjoyed
- loss of self-esteem — loss of self- confidence, feeling worthlessness, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
- change in mood — sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- changes in behaviour — can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks, acting erratically, harming self or others
- changes in sleep — insomnia, often with early waking, oversleeping or not wanting to get out of bed, nightmares
- changes in eating habits — loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Hopelessness — believing and talking as though things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
Many teens who show signs of suicidality are suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma or other mental illness. If you are concerned for someone you know, ask for help. Contact a crisis line, counsellor, mental health professional, or family physician to have your loved one get the help they need.
For more information, or for emergency help:
- Vancouver Crisis Centre: 604-872-1811
- Emergency Medical Help: 911
- Children and Youth under 19 years of age: 604-675-3895
- Children and Youth emergency: CART (Child and Adolescent Response Team): 604-874-2300 (open M-F, 9-5)
- Stillwater Studio: 604-734-2779