Author: Lakoda Thomas BSc (Hons)
Have you ever pondered the idea of removing yourself from existence? Even for a moment…
These thoughts can arise from complex and interconnected situations, contexts, mental states, and emotions. When the feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and a sense of burdensome overwhelms an individual, suicidal ideation can occur. This is identified as a broad range of “contemplations, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide”, although there is no universally accepted definition for suicidal ideation (Harmer et al., 2023). This ideation if met with increased desire, intent, and capability, altogether can indicate a higher risk for attempting suicide. Desire is characterized by thoughts of suicide, psychological pain, or feelings of being trapped. To alleviate desire, one could explore coping strategies or resources for help. Intent is distinguished by expressions of suicidal ideation, having a plan, or undergoing preparatory behaviours. To safe plan around intent, there could be arrangements to not be alone or set up connections with a safe person or calls with support services, such as crisis lines. Capability is assessed by understanding the individual’s history with suicide, the availability of means to complete a suicide plan, and if there is ongoing substance use. To safe plan around capability some options are to remove access to the means, to engage with self care routines, reduce harms with substance use, and to contact mental health professionals for further support.
Despite this topic not being commonly discussed in most social circles, suicidal thoughts can impact and be experienced by nearly any type of person at one point or another throughout their lifetime. These distressing thoughts are not bound by gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other identifying features. The thought to take one’s life can be provoked through social isolation and yet the experience of suicidal ideation, typically exacerbates this isolation, further increasing the risk. It is not uncommon to feel helpless and uncomfortable when the topic of suicide is brought up in conversation, this is no fault of any party involved. One way we can make actionable change and help those experiencing these thoughts, is to start shifting the crushing isolation by opening safe spaces to discuss this previously hushed topic. Suicide is increasingly common, especially among younger demographics and those of a lower socioeconomic status. Creating safe spaces for tough conversations to be had, can be one way to begin alleviating the pressure of loneliness and encourage ambivalence in those afflicted. Simple phrases like “how are you today?”, “I’ve noticed changes, are you okay?”, “I want to check in, you seem a little off”, all of these could help to open a relieving conversation. If you do not personally feel comfortable asking these questions, there are resources that can provide support for yourself and the individual of concern. Such resources are local crisis lines, suicide specific lines such as Talk Suicide (1-833-456-4566), and health professionals in various sectors who can provide recommendations to alternate resources. The power of honest conversation is often underestimated. As individuals we hold immense power to support our peers and loved ones through compassionate conversation.
Numbers for crisis lines in major city centers across Canada
St. Johns, Newfoundland:
1-709-737-4668 or toll free 1-888-737-4668
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia:
Fredericton, New Brunswick:
Quebec City, Quebec:
1-204-786-8686 or Toll free: 1-888-322-3019
Vancouver, British Columbia:
Yellowknife, North West Territories: