Two weeks ago, a grade 8 girl from a nearby school was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries due to attempted suicide. Despite the best efforts of the medical team, on the advice of the doctors, her parents removed all medical intervention as it was not possible for her to recover from her injuries. She passed away one week ago today.

The school sent home a letter that day explaining what had happened, explaining about the school board’s trauma team consulting with the staff, grief counselors available, and that information sessions would begin the following week to provide accurate knowledge and understanding for students. They also sent home an information pamphlet and asked parents to continue these discussions at home.

Obviously, after reading this information, a parent is in shock. Apparently, the students were also in shock. Social networking sites that evening and the subsequent weekend were abuzz with various students discussing it, wondering about it, giving their theories, but not understanding it.

And, it was very disconcerting to, after-the-fact, read this girl’s public social networking comments from the weeks leading up to when she harmed herself.

The family gave permission to share that the cause was suicide. It is the family’s wish that all avenues are explored to prevent this needless tragedy from happening to another family. Based upon their wish, this blog post was created to communicate information about suicide — to make us all more informed about this often-secretive issue.

Below is information about: Warning signs, How can I help a friend, How can I help myself, Crisis/support phone numbers, and Suicide prevention and information websites.

Why? Suicide and Youth — Let’s Talk About It — Quick Facts

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among youth
  • In 2007, almost 10% of students in Ontario reported that they had seriously considered suicide over the past year
  • 1 in 20 students in Ontario are at high risk for depression
  • Each year, on average, 294 youth in Canada die by suicide

It is difficult to determine who is, or who might become suicidal. Suicide may be prevented if we know the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and where to go for help.

Warning Signs

  • Talks about wanting to die or reveals an actual plan to end their life
  • Threatens suicide or has made a previous suicide attempt
  • Talks about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
  • Shows changes in school performance
  • Shows changes in appearance
  • Shows sudden changes in mood, thinking or behaviour
  • Gives away personal or treasured belongings
  • An increase in drug or alcohol use
  • Deliberately harms themselves or puts themselves at risk
  • Shows signs of depression: loss of interest in usual activities, changes in sleep pattern, loss of appetite, says negative things about self
  • Has suffered trauma or a recent crisis

Persons at risk for suicide usually show one or more warning signs. However, it may be possible that there will be no warning signs at all.

Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will not give them the idea.  If you think a friend is suicidal, do something. Reaching out can save a life.

How Can I Help a Friend?

  • Be a friend: Be there; keep a close watch on them; ask them how they feel; support your friend and try to give them hope; be accepting — do not judge
  • Listen carefully: Stay calm and listen; take what they say seriously; let them know that there is help available; let them talk about their feelings
  • Is the person in a crisis situation?: Watch for warning signs; be direct and ask them if they are considering suicide; talk about feelings honestly; ask if they have a plan and the means to carry it out; stay with the person until they are safe
  • Do not deal with this on your own: You need to get help for the suicidal person and for yourself. Get help from parents or a trusted adult, family, friends, doctors and community support services. Do not promise to keep this a secret and do not try to solve their problems for them.

How Can I Help Myself?

  • Ask for help: from family, friends, family doctor, school, clergy, counsellor, crisis line or hospital emergency department
  • Keep yourself safe. Make a plan: take it one hour at a time, one day at a time
  • Develop a support system around you: find an adult and/or peer you can trust and talk to
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise: physical activity helps to relieve stress
  • Try relaxation exercises: yoga, deep breathing, meditation, etc.
  • Get involved in helping others, or in an activity you enjoy
  • Avoid using drugs, alcohol or caffeine
  • Set goals for yourself
  • Learn how to problem solve

Suicide Awareness is Import — Let’s Talk About It

Crisis/Support Phone Numbers in Waterloo Region

  • In an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department
  • Crisis Services of Waterloo Region: 519-744-1813 or 1-800-366-4566
  • Canadian Mental Health Association DISTRESS LINE (Kitchener-Waterloo): 519-745-1166
  • Youth Line: 519-745-9909
  • Kids’ Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • Grand River Hospital: 519-742-3611
  • Cambridge Memorial Hospital: 519-621-2330
  • GLOW (Gays & Lesbians of Waterloo): 519-888-4569

Suicide Information/Prevention Websites

Suicide Awareness is Important