Would you know what to do if someone you loved told you they were suicidal?
If you asked me in my first year at UBC, the answer would have been no. When I first came to Vancouver, I didn’t know anyone — personally — who had died by suicide. Two years later, I would know two. Add the people who attempted or had serious plans to attempt suicide, and we’re well onto counting off the fingers on my second hand.
Now I don’t think these figures are abnormal or that I happen to know more suicidal people than the average student. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10 to 24 in Canada, yet hardly anyone talks about it in daily conversation, and even fewer people would say they feel equipped to support someone suicidal. Most people are visibly uncomfortable when the subject comes up and find it easier not to talk about it at all.
Yet I sincerely believe that not talking about suicide is our gravest mistake. Silence allows people to fall through the cracks, for the seemingly sudden, shocking acts that leave surviving friends and family grieving and asking themselves why they didn’t notice something sooner.
Because the truth is that suicide rarely happens without any warning. The problem is that few people recognise the signs for what they are or, if they do, fewer yet choose to do something because they don’t believe it’s serious, are afraid to act for fear of angering their loved one, or simply don’t know what they should do.
Maybe you know someone right now who is worrying you and you want to help them. Or maybe you don’t, but would like to be a little more prepared when — not if — you do.
Resources for suicide prevention
The UBC Mental Health Awareness Club is hosting a speaker on suicide prevention and awareness this Wednesday, 4:30-6:00 pm (IKB 157). Faris Atkinson will be speaking on ‘How to Help a Friend’. Admission is free for members and $1 for non-members. RSVP by email.
QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) is a suicide prevention program built loosely around the CPR model of providing immediate intervention until professional help can be accessed. Departments and student groups can email them directly to set up workshops.
Here to Help has an excellent fact sheet online that runs through some key, practical points to keep in mind when trying to support someone through a suicidal crisis.
If you are in crisis or are approaching crisis
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) is a 24/7 crisis line for anyone who is in distress or who is worried about someone who may hurt themselves. More than 100 languages are available if you prefer to speak in another language.
UBC Counselling Services is free for UBC students and is located in Brock Hall. All services are confidential. Appointments are by drop-in, unless you need an emergency appointment, which you can request at reception.
YouthInBC is an online service run by the BC Crisis Centre that includes a live, online chat with crisis volunteers from noon to 1 am everyday, professional email support, and crisis lines for all ages.
Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list and there is so much more that needs to be said. Suicide prevention and awareness is something I could write several posts on, but this is all I wanted to point out for now after being reminded tonight of how much I wish I’d known before I needed to know them.
I also apologise for the UBC/BC-centred nature of this post, as I’m well aware that this has very little helpful information for the non-BC resident. Nor do I say any of this with any pretence of being an expert: I’m not any more than a fairly regular student who speaks from personal experience, a little searching around, and a little training in suicide prevention through past volunteer work.