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Suicide Prevention for Youth

Suicide is a serious health concern for teenagers and young adults:

  • Suicide is a leading cause of death for Canadians under the age of 25.
  • In Alberta, teenagers and young adults have the highest rates of hospital admissions due to attempted suicide.
  • Teenage females are more likely to attempt suicide, and teenage males are more likely to die by suicide.
  • Aboriginal Canadians, especially young native males, are at an even higher risk of suicide.

Youth are vulnerable to suicide for some developmental reasons including:

  • a lack of life experience in dealing with multiple stressors
  • a lack of life experience to see the big picture and the temporary nature of problems
  • difficulty making decisions when under emotional stress
  • impulse control that is not fully developed

It is important to take any indication or suggestion of suicidal thoughts or actions seriously. Youth in crisis will often give indications that they are in trouble, these are known as warning signs or invitations to help.  Knowing what to look for can save a life.

Warning signs (invitations to help):

  • threatens or talks about suicide or has a plan for suicide
  • talks about wanting to die or shows a preoccupation with death
  • shows changes in behaviour, appearance or mood
  • abuses drugs, alcohol, gambling
  • deliberately self injures
  • says things like "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I were dead," "I shouldn't have been born," "I won't be a problem for you much longer," "Nothing matters," or "It's no use"
  • makes statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness
  • gives away prized possessions or makes a will
  • loses interest in activities or things once cared about, always feels bored
  • has trouble concentrating or has difficulties with school work
  • often complains about physical symptoms that are related to stress and emotions, such as stomach aches, headaches or fatigue
  • becomes overly impulsive and may engage in violent actions or rebellious behaviour

All suicidal thoughts or threats must be taken seriously, as should any behaviour that is out of character. Trust your instincts. If you are concerned about someone, tell others about it. Get help from family, friends, clergy, teachers, counselors, doctors, crisis lines, mental health services or a hospital emergency department. The suicidal individual and those concerned about him or her are advised to seek help as quickly as possible.

What you can do

Ask

Are you thinking about suicide?

Do you have a plan?

Do you have a way to carry out your plan?

Listen

If the answer is yes, insist that together you find help.

Be aware that the more planning that goes into any event the more likely it is to happen.

Use your instincts about whether the person is at risk of suicide now.

Seek Help

If the risk of suicide is imminent it is an emergency:  Call 9-1-1 or visit your Emergency Department.

If the person has suicidal intent but the risk of acting on that intent is not high now, contact one of the many crisis centres across Alberta.

Want to know more?

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