Suicide: risks and prevention

Learn about the factors that can increase the risk for suicide and what helps to prevent it.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 9-8-8. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline.

Help is also available through Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) and the Hope for Wellness Help Line (1-855-242-3310).

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Factors that increase the risk of suicide

No single cause can explain or predict suicide. Thoughts of suicide or suicide-related behaviours are a result of a combination of personal, social and cultural factors. The presence of these factors is different from person to person over their lifetime.

Factors that may increase the risk of suicide include:

  • a prior suicide attempt
  • mental illness like depression
  • a sense of hopelessness or helplessness
    • this means that you believe your life or current situation won’t improve
  • misuse of alcohol or substances
  • chronic (long-term) physical pain or illness
  • trauma, for example:
    • violence
    • victimization, like bullying
    • childhood abuse or neglect
    • suicide by a family member or friend
    • events that affect multiple generations of your family

Other factors that can increase the risk of suicide include:

  • significant loss, including:
    • personal (relationships)
    • social
    • cultural
    • financial (job loss)
  • major life changes or stressors, such as:
    • unemployment
    • homelessness
    • poor physical health or physical illness
    • the death of a loved one
    • harassment
    • discrimination
  • lack of access to or availability of mental health services
  • personal identity struggles (sexual, cultural)
  • lack of support from family, friends or your community
  • sense of isolation

Preventing suicide

There are a number of things that can help to guard against suicide, including:

  • social support
  • positive mental health and well-being
  • healthy self-esteem and confidence in yourself
  • a sense of hope, purpose, belonging and meaning
  • asking for help if you’re having thoughts of suicide
  • a sense of belonging and connectedness with your:
    • family
    • friends
    • culture
    • community

Other ways to help protect against risk of suicide include:

  • a strong identity (personal, sexual, cultural)
  • positive relationships (peers, family, partner)
  • access to appropriate mental health services and support
  • good coping and problems-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to change and new situations
  • supportive environments where you’re accepted and valued (school, workplace, community)

If you’re struggling with your mental health or are worried about someone, you’re not alone. Get help now.

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