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In Canada, suicide is the second highest cause of death for youth aged 10-24. Each year, on average, 294 youths die from suicide. Many more attempt suicide. Aboriginal teens and gay and lesbian teens may be at particularly high risk, depending on the community they live in and their own self esteem.

Suicide is a complex process. The cause can seldom be attributed to one single factor, such as the death by suicide of a rock star or family break-up. It may be a routine event or an overwhelming one that overloads a vulnerable youth’s coping mechanisms. As well, new research suggests that there may be a genetic link to suicide. Afamily history of suicidal behaviour should be taken into account, if for no other reason than the young person may have been affected by this behaviour in the past.

 

Warning Signs

Suicidal youth rarely make a direct plea for help. But most will exhibit warning signs. There are no guaranteed predictors for suicide. However, there are important warning signs to recognize:

  • History of death by suicide by a friend or a family member
  • History of one or more previous suicide attempts
  • Preoccupation with death and/or dying
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Giving away possessions or cherished items
  • Change in personality or behaviour
  • Change in sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Signs or feelings of depression; moodiness, hopelessness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Increased use of substances (e.g. alcohol, drugs)
  • Family disruptions (e.g. separation, divorce, death, separated by distance)

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide
  • Stressful life events (e.g. leaving home for the first time, family changes)
  • Living with a serious illness or injury
  • Seriously injuring of causing the death of another (e.g. motor vehicle accident)
  • Suffering a major loss of a friend, family member, relationship or possession
  • Fear, embarrassment, or humiliation (e.g. failing school, job loss, not meeting others’ expectations)
  • Substance abuse