Description of suicide
Suicide is the voluntary act of taking one’s own life.
Suicidal thoughts are the warning bells that precede suicide. They occur when suffering becomes unbearable and the person is unable to relieve it using methods they already know.
Every day in Québec, approximately 3 people take their own lives and 8 people are hospitalised after attempting suicide.
Suicide is never an option; there are always solutions. Everyone can help prevent suicide.
Causes of suicide
Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event.
It is the accumulation and interaction of several factors at a particular moment of a person’s life that may lead to distress, despair and suicidal thoughts. In such a predicament, the person may then feel death is a solution to their despair, a way to end their suffering.
Factors that come into play are different for each person. These factors can be related to:
- A person’s predispositions (for instance: psychological problems, experiences, etc.)
- Their social environment
- Their family situation
- Life experiences (for instance: failure, heartbreak, instances of humiliation or rejection)
People at risk
Some factors may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions in someone who:
- Is living with a mental illness, depression in particular
- Is living with a physical health problem
- Is addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling
- Is experiencing family problems
- Is experiencing conflicts in their relationships with others
- Is experiencing financial problems, low income or who is jobless
- Is living alone
- Is responsible for a single parent family
Recognising the signs
You must be vigilant. People thinking of suicide generally give signs of distress or clues of their intentions that can alert relatives, friends or parents.
These signs come in the shape of words, conduct, emotions or cognitive clues.
Examples of words employed
A person with suicidal thoughts may use certain words that are telling:
- “I want to put an end to all this”
- “I want to kill myself”
- “You’ll be much better off without me”
- “I am useless”
- “I have failed at everything in life”
- “I’ll be better off dead”
- “Life is not worth living”
Examples of conduct
Certain conduct can indicate that a person has intention of committing suicide. For example, they may do the following:
- Isolate themselves and prefer to be alone
- Put their affairs in order (such as making sure their life insurance papers are up to date, making sure they will not leave anything that might harm the people around them)
- Show heightened interest in weapons and medicines
- Give away personal affects
- Consume alcohol, drugs or medication in an unusual way
- Be agitated, or on the contrary, lack energy
- Write a will or goodbye letter
- Have trouble sleeping or eating
- Neglect their appearance and hygiene
Examples of emotional and cognitive clues
Certain emotions and changes in mental function can be observed in someone with suicidal thoughts. This person may appear:
- Irritable, meaning they become angry easily
- Bored, as though unable to experience pleasure
The person may also:
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Speak in a confused and incoherent manner
- Be unmotivated
- Have loss of memory
- Be indecisive
You must be careful if the person’s mood suddenly improves. Such change may be misleading as it may mean that the person has planned their suicide. They are not actually doing better, but in their view, they believe that their suffering will soon end, or that they will stop making others suffer.
Having suicidal thoughts is not an illness, but rather a symptom indicating that something is not going well. Suicidal thoughts can be related to a crisis situation or to depression or dependence problems.
There are treatments available for these problems.
Treatment for depression
Depression affects the majority of people who commit suicide. Effective treatments to counter depression are available. The earlier an affected person consults with a doctor, the better their chances of recovery. To learn more, see the Depression page.
Treatment for dependence
Behavioural dependence on alcohol, drugs and gambling favour the emergence of suicidal thoughts. Resources specialised in the field of dependence offer proven treatments. These treatments help people to reduce and to control their conduct of dependency. To learn more, see the Consumption of Alcohol and Other Drugs, and Gambling page.
What to do
If you harbour suicidal thoughts
Should you harbour suicidal thoughts, it means your suffering is getting the better of you and that perhaps you are no longer able to manage it. It is a warning bell that you must take seriously. There are resources that can help.
When to seek medical help
Do not wait until you are unable to conduct your regular activities before seeking medical help. Get professional help as soon as possible if:
- You are experiencing distress
- You have difficulty meeting your work or family responsibilities
- You only see the dark side of life and are consumed by despair
- You have suicidal thoughts
A health professional will assess whether you are suffering from depression or another health problem. They will propose a treatment plan adapted to your needs.
To know which resources are at your disposal, see Help and resources.
In the event of a suicidal crisis
Call 1 866 277-3553. There are people to help and give you support. Do not stay alone. You are not alone to fight. There is always hope.
If you wish to help a loved one
Anyone may find themselves in a situation in which they must act to prevent the suicide of a friend, parent or colleague. If you wish to help a loved one, follow the Advice for helping a suicidal person.
Should you feel incapable of acting, make sure that someone else does. Call 1 866 277-3553 to receive support and advice.
Advice for helping a suicidal person
- Listen to the person and show them that you understand to what degree they are in distress. Keep in mind that there is always a part of a suicidal person that wants to live, up to the very last minute. Your help can strengthen this will to live
- Take the person seriously. Avoid making fun of the person, or lecturing and provoking them
- See if the person is thinking about committing suicide. If so, try to understand how, where and when they plan it. The more detailed the plan, the faster you must act
- Tell them that you are worried about them
- Encourage the person to seek help and accompany them as needed. Help them find solutions, but avoid doing everything in their place
- Respect your limits. Keep in mind that you are not responsible for the acts of a suicidal person
- Don’t act alone. Seek information and support from a qualified professional. You don’t have to think that what the person you are helping confided is a secret. Not talking about it might limit possible interventions and make you carry responsibility for the suicidal person alone. See the Help and resources section to find professionals that can help you
- In order to respect the person suffering, be discreet in your approach to get help. For instance, avoid talking about what the person is going through loudly in public
In case of an emergency
Should you fear for your safety or for that of a loved one, contact emergency services by dialing 9-1-1.
Help and resources
Assistance is available at all times for:
- People with suicidal thoughts
- Those close to someone suicidal
- People in mourning as a result of someone having committed suicide
Regardless of which situation you find yourself, here is a list of resources from where you can receive information or immediate assistance.
List of resources
1 866 277-3553
365 days a year, 24/7, you can call 1 866 277-3553 to speak to someone. Do not hesitate, qualified help is always available to assist and answer your questions. They are available to talk at all times.
Suicide prevention centre
You can receive help from your local suicide prevention centre. To find contact information, see the List of suicide prevention centres (available in French only) on the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide’s website.
Other listening and support resources are also available:
- Info-Santé 811
- Integrated health and social services centres (CISSS) and integrated university health and social services centres (CIUSSS)
- Crisis centres (in French only)
- Association des centres d’écoute téléphonique du Québec (in French only)
- Tel-jeunes (1 800 263-2266)
- LigneParents (in French only) (1 800 361-5085)
- Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (in French only)
- Veterans Affairs Canada (Helpline : 1 800 268-7708)
This resource is for veterans and their immediate families only.
Last update: November 2, 2018