September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. The theme this year, according to the International Association for Suicide Prevention is "Working together to prevent suicide". Suicide prevention can be accomplished, for example, by spreading the word, learning more about the warning signs and helping youth in emotional crisis seek help.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 800,000 people die every year by suicide worldwide. In Canada, approximately 25% of deaths among the 15-24 year- old age group, is attributed to suicide. Youth suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada and the third highest in the industrialized world.
Suicidal youth are in emotional pain. Pain from alienation, humiliation, bullying, abuse, shame, microaggression, worthlessness and excessive social media activity, for instance, have resulted in poor mental health and risk for suicide. Furthermore, recent studies on the effects of the pandemic on youth mental health have pointed to a rise in suicide attempts. Adverse effects of the Covid pandemic restrictions on youth mental health has been well reported. Youth inability to regularly socialize with friends and maintain relationships; irritability and anger with lock down, inability to engage in sports and social activities, presence of family conflicts, loneliness, and unemployment, are all known risks to youth depression, anxiety, increased substance use and other mental disorders. These, in turn, put youth at risk for suicide.
Friends, family and communities can help youth in crisis and prevent suicide by working together. Awareness of the warning signs of suicide and taking steps to reach out to youth in crisis is key. Evidence indicates that 4 out of 5 suicidal youth give clear signals of their intent, so knowing the warning signs is half the battle.
Provide support and encourage youth to talk about their pain. Listen intently. Use body language that conveys interest and empathy. Ask for clarification of incoherent language. Reassure youth that help is available. Plan activities to follow through on an ongoing basis. In families with communication difficulties, parents may need to participate in community-run parenting skills and family relations programs to be able to help their teen. Encourage youth
to participate in community youth social and emotional learning programs. Several community youth programs are available that connects youth with each other through empowering activities.
Friends, family and communities can get immediate help for youth in crisis by visiting their family physician or nurse practitioner for appropriate mental health care and subsequent referral to relevant mental health professionals for ongoing supports and services.
Together, we can prevent youth suicide. Listen, Support and seek help for youth in emotional pain.
Some resources to access:
Kids Help phone: 1-800-668-6868
Canada Suicide Prevention Services: 1-833-456-4566 24/7
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (CDC): 1-800-273-8255 24/7