Risk of Self-Harm

Scroll through the list below to find answers to some frequently asked questions.

    There are many misconceptions about suicide, including:

    Myth: Someone who talks about suicide won't carry it out.

    Fact: In fact, most people who attempt suicide talk about it first.

    Myth: If a person wants to commit suicide, nothing will stop them.

    Fact: In fact, people who attempt suicide often don't really want to die, they want to stop their suffering. This feeling may not last very long, especially if they get appropriate help.

    Myth: People who attempt suicide are crazy.

    Fact: In fact, they aren't. They are suffering and need help.

    Myth: You shouldn't discuss suicide with someone you're concerned about as it could give them ideas.

    Fact: In fact, talking about suicide doesn't increase risk. It is the best way to understand a person's mindset and intentions.
Suicides seldom occur without warning. If you are aware of common early warning signs, you can help yourself or a person in crisis.

A previous attempt is a particularly important sign. Such an attempt increases the risk of future ones.

The following behaviours are especially significant because these signs indicate that a decision to complete suicide may have been made:
  • Giving away prized possessions (e.g. CD collection)
  • Preoccupation with thoughts of death
  • Making a will; writing poetry or stories about suicide or death
  • Quietly putting affairs in order, "taking care of business"
  • Threatening suicide
  • Hoarding pills, hiding weapons, describing methods for committing suicide
  • A sudden sense of calm or happiness after a person has been very depressed

The common warning signs are usually physical, emotional and behavioral in nature. Be alert to changes.

The common warning signs include:
  • Neglect of personal appearance or sudden changes in manner of dress
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
  • Wide mood changes and sudden outbursts
  • Extreme tension, agitation and depression
  • Changes in personality: from outgoing to withdrawn, from polite to rude, from compliant to rebellious, from well-behaved to "acting out"
  • Loss of rational thought
  • Self-destructive thoughts
  • Exaggerated fears of cancer, AIDS or physical impairment
  • Socially isolating
  • High-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving and sexual promiscuity
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feeling trapped, hopeless, or desperate
  • Feeling like a burden to others
Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated. Depression, anxiety, chemical dependency, and other problems produce profound emotional distress. They also interfere with effective problem-solving. In people experiencing suicidal thoughts, the underlying psychological problem is often not properly diagnosed or treated.
The vast majority of people who receive appropriate treatment improve or recover completely. Even if you have received treatment before, different treatments work better for different people in different situations. Several tries are sometimes necessary before the right combination is found.
Suicidal crises are usually temporary.

Although it might seem as if your unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually time-limited. Solutions are found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Suicide is sometimes referred to as "a permanent solution to a temporary problem". Don't let suicide rob you of better times that will come your way when you allow more time to pass.
People of all ages, genders, and ethnicities are at risk for suicide; however, some people are at heightened risk. Some risk factors are:
  • Depression or another mental disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • A previous suicide attempt
  • A family history of suicide
  • Having firearms in the home
  • Being in prison
  • Physical or sexual violence in the family
  • Witnessing others' suicidal behaviour – in family, friends, or the media

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Risk of Self Harm
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