Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Each year, one in six Albertans will seriously think about suicide. There are an average of 2400 hospital stays and more than six thousand emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries, the result of suicide attempts, annually. More than four hundred Albertans will die by suicide each year.

The University of Alberta is committed to supporting staff and students in both their work and personal lives by providing comprehensive, preventative programs and services.

Suicide has no boundaries. It can affect our family, friends and colleagues. This information is being made available to raise awareness and provide access to necessary information on suicide prevention, but also to ensure that all of us can adapt our behaviour and respond appropriately in these situations.

If you or someone you know is currently at immediate risk, please dial 911.

The Myths

Talking about suicide may "plant the seed".

Having open, honest and frank discussions about suicide does not create or increase the risk of it occurring.

People who talk about it don't really mean it.

Few people commit suicide without attempting to notify someone of their intent. It may be their way of asking someone to help them live.

A person considering suicide wants to die.

What most people are looking for is an end to their pain or escape from a troubling situation. Most are ambivalent about the decision and are caught between wanting to live and finding a way out of their current situation.

After a person tries to commit suicide, it is unlikely that they will try again.

Studies suggest that four out of five individuals who die by suicide have made at least one prior attempt.

There were no signs.

One third of deaths by suicide are preceded by warning signs.

Suicide is only a risk through adolescence and early adult years.

No age group, race, religion or gender is immune to the risk of suicide.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide
  • Stressful life events (e.g. leaving home for the first time, family changes)
  • Living with a serious illness or injury
  • Seriously injuring or causing the death of another (e.g. motor vehicle accident)
  • Suffering a major loss of a friend, family member, relationship or possession
  • Fear, embarrassment, or humiliation (e.g. failing school, job loss, not meeting others' expectations)
  • Substance abuse

Warning Signs

There are no guaranteed predictors for suicide. However, there are important warning signs to recognize:

  • History of previous threats or attempts
  • Preoccupation with death and/or dying
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Giving away possessions or cherished items
  • Change in personality or behaviour
  • Change in sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Increased use of substances (e.g. alcohol, drugs)
  • Family disruptions (e.g. separation, divorce, death, separated by distance)

How Can I Help?

  • Talk about it. Talking about suicide will help remove the stigma and encourage people to reach out for help.
  • Educate yourself on the risk factors, warning signs, and available resources.
  • Trust your instincts and follow through with action if you have suspicions about someone you know.
  • Be alert to changes in behaviour.
  • If someone's intentions are unclear, ask for clarification. Ask them if they have a plan.
  • Have an open, honest, and frank discussion.
  • Listen without judgment.
  • Allow the person to talk freely.
  • Acknowledge their feelings.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do.
  • Remain calm, supportive, and patient.
  • Be genuine and honest in your concern.
  • Encourage and support them in seeking assistance from a mental health/medical professional. Offer to make the call for them.
  • Stay with them or make a plan with the person for the next few hours or days.
  • If they are reluctant to get help, be firm in your intentions to get assistance for them.
  • Contact 911 if the individual is posing a threat to themselves or others.

Resource Material

Self Assessment Tools

Many people with mental health issues do not seek treatment because they fail to recognize the signs and symptoms, or they are too embarrassed to reach out for help. The majority of mental health conditions can be treated, allowing people to recover and lead productive and satisfying lives.

The following practical tools are designed to assist you in recognizing potential problems. They are provided for the purposes of your information only. They are not diagnostic tests. However, you are encouraged to print your results, and discuss them with your health care provider if your answers indicate you may be at risk or if you simply feel you need advice.

  • Check up From the Neck Up - Each year many of us have a physical examination, visit a dentist and get our eyes checked. Very few make the point of assessing their mental health each year. Check Up From the Neck Up is a self assessment screening tool designed to potentially identify some symptoms of depression, mania, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Work Life Balance Quiz (Canadian Mental Health Association)
  • Stress Test (Canadian Mental Health Association) - Stress can cause emotional chaos that makes our daily lives miserable. It can also decrease our physical health, sometimes drastically. Strangely, we are not always aware that we are under stress. The habits, attitudes, and signs that can alert us to problems may be hard to recognize because they have become so familiar. Determine your stress level by completing this quiz.
  • Check Your Drinking Survey
  • CMHA Mental Health Meter

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