Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. There is so much going on and some of it is very difficult to deal with. Failing a big test, being bullied, a break-up, that huge fight with a parent or friend, and pressure to succeed, belong and fit-in – it can all build up and, for some people, it can seem like things aren’t going to get better. These feelings can lead to suicidal thoughts.

What are the warning signs of suicide?

If you see some of the warning signs, or you feel there’s something wrong, take action and ask someone you trust for help.

  • Loss of interest in family, friends, school, hobbies or part-time job
  • Not doing well in class, skipping classes or having problems concentrating
  • Taking more risks
  • Using more drugs or alcohol
  • New or increased self-harm behaviour
  • Are more angry, their mood changes quickly or they’re in a “flat” mood
  • More fighting with family or friends
  • Giving away (or throwing away) their favourite things
  • Dark art, poetry or writing
  • Saying things like “Everyone will be better without me”, “I wish I were dead” or “I just can’t take it anymore”
  • They eat or sleep a lot more or a lot less. They don’t take as much time to look good, do their hair or dress nicely
  • Complaining about not feeling well, such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Putting themselves down or having a hard time accepting compliments
  • Talking about death or suicide, making jokes about suicide like “You’ll miss me when I’m gone”

How do you talk to a friend about suicide?

If you notice some of the warning signs in a friend, talk to them. Whether you go to them, or they start the conversation with you, here are some helpful tips.

  • Listen – first and foremost – without judgment and with an open mind.
  • Don’t dismiss or minimize your friend’s stress, loss or experience. If it’s important to them, it’s important. Feelings aren’t wrong. They just are what they are, and need to be acknowledged and listened to.
  • Let them know you care, that they matter to you and you want to support them in any way you can.
  • Ask about suicide directly if you suspect your friend is thinking about it. People do not become more suicidal by talking about it and suicide is not an idea you can plant in someone’s head. It’s more likely that your friend will be relieved to be able to talk about how they feel and what they’re going through. Use clear language like “are you thinking about suicide?” or “have things gotten so bad that you’re thinking of killing yourself?”
  • Get help. If a friend tells you that they are feeling suicidal, you may feel pressure to keep it a secret. This is one secret that you must not keep. Tell a trusted adult like a teacher, coach, guidance counselor or parent – no matter what time of the day or night it is. It is better to risk your friend being upset with you than risk losing them to suicide. 

In the light of this timely reminder of how common mental illness is – even in the happiest countries – the stigma still attached to these conditions is remarkable. Pretty much everyone can expect either to experience a problem themselves or to know someone who has, discrimination against people with mental health problems is all too common, with much of that hostility coming from family and friends.

As a society, it is high time we faced up to the fact that mental illness is just as routine as physical illness (and assuredly no more shameful), and provided the high-quality, timely care that these conditions require.

Friendship Matters

  • Strong friendships are a critical aspect of most people's emotional well-being. They can bolster against loneliness, decrease anxiety, and improve one's physical health. When it comes to establishing a friendship, the quality of time spent together proves more important than the quantity. It’s not necessary to form a large network of friends: Research shows that sustaining just a few close friendships can provide tremendous benefits.

  • Real respect comes from what we do, not what we say.

We desire to be respected and hope we are in various ways needed, but the question is, are we willing to be known for what we do? Not the work, not the position, not the status, but the true meaning of us to those we touch through our own lives. This is the meaning of authority.

Life is not about all the epic moments of great importance, but all the seemingly less important things that together make the day beautiful or another cruel entry in the diary—the bouncing atoms of our every day. It is this that makes the whole of us.

What absolutely defines a person is what they do at any given moment of truth—it defines the very fabric of who they really are.

Follow your own personal authority both carefully and responsibly, and you’ll find you can motivate and inspire others. I wish you a fair journey so that you may help others to fare well.

  • For guidance, you can also call the Central Toronto youth services 416-924-2100 Covenant House Toronto 416 598-4898 27/7
  • If there is an immediate danger call 911. Don’t take a chance when a life is at risk!