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‘Suicide can happen to anyone and any age’: Warning signs to look for and tools to talk about it

Click to play video: 'Tools to talk about and help prevent suicide' Tools to talk about and help prevent suicide
Learning how to talk about suicide could save a life. Kristin Pilon, an expert on managing emotional crises, joins Global News Calgary with some tips on how to identify and help when a loved one is in trouble. – Feb 27, 2021

Every year, one in six Albertans will seriously consider taking their own life and more than 400 will die by suicide, according to the University of Alberta.

Yet, we rarely discuss this.

There’s still a stigma surrounding suicide, according to Kristin Pilon, a facilitator with the Provincial Injury Prevention Program through Alberta Health Services.

“People don’t necessarily feel very comfortable talking about it because of that stigma that goes along with suicide, and so when we have these conversations, it can really help to break down that stigma,” she told Global News.

“Suicide can happen to anyone and any age. So if we recognize or if we see that those that we care about are struggling, it’s important just to have that conversation and check in and see and ask what’s going on.”

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Read more: ‘Anxiety and depression are increasing’: Alberta doctor sees spike in mental health visits

Reasons for considering ending one’s life vary, Pilon said.

“There’s not one thing or one feeling that people might have when they’re thinking about suicide, but generally, they feel like there’s no hope and that their situation is not going to get better,” she said.

One-third of suicides are preceded by warning signs, according to the U of A.

Pilon said warning signs include:

  • talking about suicide or making plans to die
  • losing interest in activities
  • giving away belongings
  • feeling hopeless, like the situation can’t get better

“If someone is talking about suicide, it’s really important to take that seriously, and then the next recommendation would be to ask them,” Pilon said.

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“It’s OK to ask about suicide. We want to be clear and direct. So, ‘Are you having thoughts about suicide?’ and asking about suicide won’t make someone suicidal.”

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It’s crucial to listen, Pilon said.

“We want to take what they’re saying seriously, and we want to listen without judgment,” she said.

“We want to not say things like, ‘Well, you’re not thinking about suicide, are you?’ Because what happens is that really gives the person some negative feelings and they just won’t want to continue that conversation. So being clear and direct and listening non-judgmentally is really important when we’re talking about suicide.”

You can help loved ones get the appropriate help they need:

“We want to make sure that, in any of our conversations, if there is a person that’s at immediate risk of harming themselves or other people, that we call 911 right away,” Pilon said.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

If you are in need of support, you can call Health Link at 811 or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Crisis Services Canada’s toll-free helpline provides 24-7 support at 1-833-456-4566.

AHS has resources for getting through tough times.

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