Are you dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide or self-harm right here and right now? Help is available—you don’t need to deal with these feelings alone. Call Talk Suicide Canada any time. They are available via phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They are also available via text from 4PM–12AM EST every day. Service is offered in English and French. It’s confidential, free, and will help you get through a difficult time.
Reach Talk Suicide Canada by phone at: 1-833-456-4566
Reach Talk Suicide Canada by text at: 45645
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of Canadian adults who report suicidal ideation—thinking about suicide—has nearly doubled from 2.7% to 4.2%. This clearly highlights the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation, reminding us how vital it is to be proactive in supporting our friends and family.
Depression and suicidal thoughts aren’t always easy to spot. Contrary to popular belief, people with severe depression don’t go through life looking sad all the time. In fact, many people with depression may seem like relatively happy, confident people when around others. Regardless, it’s all too common for people who are struggling to do so alone, allowing themselves to become isolated and more at risk of self-harm or suicide.
This is a tough topic to broach, yet it’s one that we all need to address in order to protect those we care about in our lives. Odds are someone in your life is struggling with depression right now—whether you know it or not. That’s why it’s so important to learn about depression and its symptoms, as well as how best to support someone who is struggling.
Here’s what is worth knowing about depression in order to prevent suicide.
The Facts About Suicide in Canada
It’s important to know the hard facts about depression and suicide in order to be on the lookout for it among your friends, your partner/significant other, and your family. People from all walks of life can develop depression or be at risk of suicide, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and any other factors. Here are some key points to know:
- Approximately 12 Canadians die from suicide each day—that’s around 4500 people per year
- Suicide rates are three times higher among men than women
- Transgender adolescents show five times the risk of suicidal ideation than cisgender (identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth) adolescents
- Almost 1 in 8 Canadian adults reported symptoms of a depressive mood disorder when surveyed
Potential Warning Signs of Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
If there’s one thing to keep top of mind regarding depression and suicide, it’s that no two people experience it the exact same way. It might be obvious to you when a friend is going through a depressed period in their life. On the other hand, many have been shocked to lose a loved one to suicide, having had no idea that they were struggling. With that said, there are a few warning signs that you must be aware of.
- Expressing Feelings of Helplessness/Hopelessness – One of the most common signs of depression is the feeling of being lost in your life as if it were impossible for you to help yourself or have a good future. Depending on the person, these feelings might be obvious or completely invisible to those in their life. If you notice a friend talking about feeling helpless or hopeless, pay attention.
- Lack of Interest in Usual Activities – This is a more easily observable symptom of depression. Many people with depression will find themselves uninterested in the things they normally find fun. This can also extend to daily responsibilities like work or school.
- Changes in Appetite, Weight, and/or Sleep – Many people with depression will have drastic changes in their weight and daily routines, such as sleeping and eating. It can swing either way, whether it’s overeating and undersleeping, the opposite, or another combination. Sudden weight loss or gain can also be a sign of depression and mental health struggles.
- Anger or Frustration – If you notice a loved one becoming unusually irritable or angry, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with depression. Contrary to what some may think, sadness isn’t the only (or even the primary) emotion of people with depression. It can be a complete spectrum ranging from total numbness to apathy, to outright anger at the world around them.
- Ongoing Fatigue – Going hand-in-hand with changes in sleep are issues with energy. Many people with depression deal with chronic fatigue (tiredness) on a day-to-day basis, even if they get enough sleep in a given night. If you notice a friend or family member acting more low energy than normal for an ongoing period of time, pay close attention.
- Self-Destructive Behaviours – Depression and suicide are often linked to feelings of low self-worth or even self-loathing. For some, this can manifest in the form of self-destructive behaviours. This can take many forms, including drug/alcohol abuse, self-deprivation, physical self-harm, or intentional self-isolation. One night of heavy drinking or drug use isn’t necessarily a sign of self-hatred, but if it becomes a pattern it could be a manifestation of mental illness.
- Challenges with Focus – People struggling with suicidal thoughts may have a difficult time focusing. This could be for ‘boring’ tasks like school or work, which take brainpower to focus on in the first place, but it can also extend to conversations with friends or recreational activities like reading or watching a movie. If you notice someone is frequently ‘zoning out’ of an activity, it might be a sign of depression.
- Worsened Chronic Pain – Some people with depression report increased aches, pains, and injuries. Our mental and physical health is inextricably connected, and an issue with one can sometimes manifest with the other. Notice increased complaints of back pain, joint pain, headaches, or stomach issues.
What to Do If A Loved One is Struggling
If you suspect (or know) that a friend or family member is dealing with depression and ongoing suicidal ideation, we urge you to do everything you can to support them. Depression can force people to self-isolate even when it’s against their best interests—but don’t give up on the people you love. In ascending order of urgency, here are some ways to help people who are dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.
1. Leave Them an Open Offer to Talk
If you believe a usually mentally healthy person is going through a tough time, a gentle but kind way to help is with an open invitation to talk. Privately let them know that you’ve noticed changes in their mood or behaviour, tell them that you’re here to support them, and let them know that you’re happy to talk whenever they want. For people who are dealing with mild depression symptoms, this can help them feel supported and offer them an alternative to suicidal thoughts if their symptoms become overwhelming.
If they do take you up on the offer, remember to listen, listen, listen. You don’t need to have the answers—just being there can often be enough to help someone get through a tough moment.
2. Reach Out with Specificity and Intention
For many, an open invitation won’t be enough to encourage people to reach out. Depression can rob people of their initiative and proactive attitude, meaning it’s up to you to reach out. When you get in touch, avoid vague questions such as ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How can I help?’ These may just overwhelm the person or make them feel like a burden. Instead, do some of the legwork ahead of time. If you have specific questions about their mood or life, this can be a good way to get them talking.
Alternatively, creating a (flexible) plan for your loved one can be a good way to show them you care without putting pressure on them. Be proactive. Think about what might be helpful, and simply do it rather than offering and putting the responsibility of choosing on the other person.
3. Find and Offer Resources to Help
Even though you care, you’re not an expert in helping people deal with depression and suicidal thoughts. What you can do is research resources to support them. This can range from helplines in case they’re in crisis, local groups or workshops to help them learn healthy coping strategies, or referrals to local counsellors or therapists who might be a good fit for their needs. Finding and offering these resources can be a great way to show them you care.
4. Watch Over Them and Keep Them Safe
If your friend or family member feels comfortable enough with you, they might turn to you in dark or dangerous moments. If you’re able, be there to support this person in these moments of crisis. This can include staying over with them and making sure they don’t do anything self-destructive, being on the phone with them for an evening, or taking other steps to ensure they don’t harm themselves.
5. Encourage Them to Take Steps Toward Recovery
Last but not least, one of the best ways to support a person with depression is to encourage them to make changes to address their mental challenges. This can take many forms, from mood medications to counselling, specialized therapy to a consistent exercise routine. It can be hard to take these steps for a person who’s struggling, but it will be easier with you in their corner.
Support for Depression in Toronto ON at Hopewoods
Depression and suicide are incredibly difficult topics, and despite all we’ve learned about them over the years, there’s much more to do in order to support those in our lives. If you’re searching for a trusted community psychotherapy service in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby, look no further than our team at Hopewoods. With several years of combined experience and a toolkit of resources for every scenario, we’re here to join you on the first steps of recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, we’re here to answer questions and proactively support in any way we can. For more information, contact us or click here to book a free 30-minute consultation.