the signs of distress and risks factors
Suicide rarely happens without warning. Someone thinking of suicide will show signs of distress that can be perceptible to those around them. Most people who attempt or die by suicide did not necessarily want to die. The act is above all an attempt to end to their suffering!
It is therefore crucial to identify these signs and to act to provide the necessary help to the person who is going through a period of crisis and great distress.
Signs of distress
Verbal signs of distress (direct or indirect)
A person who is disparaging themselves, expressing a desire to die or the possibility of dying are signs of potential suicidal ideation. Some examples are:
- I want to die
- You would be better off without me…
- I won’t be here anymore anyway!
- What’s the point of going on?
- I am useless
- I have no value/importance
It is wrong to think that a person who talks about suicide will not act on it. On the contrary, it is often a cry for help. While saying these things does not always mean someone is considering suicide, they are a sign of deep distress.
A person who has decided to take their own life may say goodbye to those around them during unexpected visits or phone calls, imply that they will not be seen again, or write goodbye letters.
Behavioural signs of distress
- Unusual Isolation or inability to be alone
- Withdrawal from usual activities or seeking unusual contacts can be signs of distress. For example, not paying attention to things that used to be important, neglecting friends or acquaintances, avoiding physical contact or seeking physical contact…
- Hoarding medications
- Writing final disposition documents, making gifts or bequests
- Onset or worsening of use of any type or presence of risk behaviours
- Increased risk behaviours such as increased drug or alcohol use, risky recreational activities, unprotected sex, and reckless driving may be indicative.
- Having a strong interest in death-related issues
- For example, writing essays, painting pictures, reading books, or visiting death-related websites
- Researching methods or means of committing suicide
Signs of psychological distress
- Sens of hopelessness
- Low self-esteem
- High susceptibility
- Sudden serenity and detachment
- If a person, after a period of deep discouragement and suffering, suddenly appears very calm, content and detached, this may be a sign that the person has decided to end his or her life.
Signs of biological distress
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Increased or decreased hours of sleep
- Change in sleep schedule without reason
- Lack of energy
- Change in the person’s lifestyle
Keep in mind that these signs are worrisome, but do not necessarily indicate that the person is suicidal. You know the people around you so trust yourself! If you are concerned about a change in behaviour of any kind, do not hesitate to seek help for your loved one!
Predisposing factors are elements in the past that can make the person more vulnerable.
- One or more suicide attempts
- Mental health problems (depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders)
- Alcohol or drug addiction problems
- Various personality traits (anxiety, low self-esteem, impulsiveness)
- Difficulty recognizing or accepting sexual orientation
- Chronic physical health problems
- Lack of problem-solving skills
- Suicide of someone close to the person
- Isolation and lack of meaningful family ties
- Unemployment or poverty
Contributing factors amplify the individual’s fragility (substance abuse, unstable social environment).
- Substance abuse and gambling
- Previous suicidal ideation
- Living alone
- Crumbling in interpersonal relationships
- Refusal to ask for help
- Increased impulsivity
- Conflicts in the family or at work
- Isolation or lack of a support network
- Recent bereavement
- Availability of means to commit suicide
- Lack of continuity of care
Precipitating factors are elements that can trigger a suicidal idea or behaviour. They are grouped according to periods of life.
- A break-up
- School failure
- Sudden conflict in the family
- Conflict with peers with humiliation or rejection.
- A break-up
- Loss of a job
- A professional failure
- Conflict with the law
- Financial difficulties
For the elderly
- Bereavement of a spouse
- Loss of driver’s licence
- Loss of functional autonomy
- Moving into a facility for people with motor failure
- Chronic illness
- Ability to ask for help
- Knowledge and confidence in oneself
- Rewarding activities
- Good physical and psychological health
- Resilience and ability to solve problems, manage stress
- Adoption of healthy lifestyle habits
- Developing a sense of security
- Ability to make friends, to integrate into a group
- Harmonious relationships with family and friends
- A respectful and rewarding school or work environment
- Healthy lifestyle habits in the family environment
- Openness to differences within the family
- Dialogue in the family environment
- Developing a model of mutual aid
- Strengthening stability and availability in the family environment
- Developing a network of friends
- Access to support services adapted to the needs of the population
- Continuity of services
- The alliance between service providers and the population in terms of suicide prevention
- A suicide prevention program in the community
- Males between the ages of 28 and 65
- Native population
- People who identify as LGBTQ2+
- Youth aged 15–24
- People 65 years and older
- People experiencing homelessness
- People who have experienced one or more episodes of self-inflicted injury
- People with a mental health problem or chronic pain
- People with an addiction problem
If you perceive one or more of these signs of distress in someone you know, or recognize what you are saying, don’t hesitate to go get help!
When in doubt, it is better to act and ask the person directly! This will open the door for them to ask for help!
Don’t hesitate to call us to get help for you or someone you know.