Suicide is still taboo in our society today, and despite all of the measures taken with regards to its prevention, not enough it is written about. In the past decades, researchers have decided to concentrate on the issue and some patterns have started to emerge which helped professionals to gain a better understanding of it altogether and develop services to prevent it.

It is important to know there is not one specific cause for suicide, but rather a variety of causes that lead a person to experience discomfort and distress, to feel vulnerable and to consider suicide as a solution to his or her problems, which it’s not.

A person with suicidal tendencies usually presents a variety of discernable signs that cannot be overlooked.

“First, there are signs related to the person’s personal situation which will influence that person’s state of vulnerability, for example a break-up, a job loss, or an important alcohol consumption,” explains Bruno Marchand, director of the Association québécoise de prevention du suicide (AQPS).

“There are also behavioural signs, and changes in their interest, like a new chronic lateness for work or no more interest in their favourite hobby, let’s say. Finally, there are also verbal signs, like their mentioning that they found a solution to their problem or that they will no longer be a weight for others. In the presence of these signs, it is important to ask questions and validate with them what they are referring to, if they are thinking about suicide, because it is by asking clear questions that we get clear answers, so that we can seek help,” he added.

Depression and mental illness are also factors that can influence a person’s vulnerability to contemplate suicide as the solution to their problems.

The latest statistics from 2010 available through the Institut national de la santé publique du Québec (INSPQ)’s report say that every day in Québec, three people will take their own life, with 80% of these people being men.

Mr. Marchand pointed out that the age groups that tend to be more at risk are generally men between 35 and 49 years old, followed closely by the 50 to 64 year-olds. Other groups at risk include, but are not limited to, members of some aboriginal communities as well as people who are questioning their sexual orientation. It is important to note however, that anyone can be at risk, and signs cannot be taken lightly.

“Men tend to be more at risk than women because of the way that men are raised in society and led to believe that they have to take care of everything on their own,” explains Danyelle Latreille, clinical coordinator at the Ressource Régionale Suicide of the CSSS of Laval.

“First, they usually deny that they have any problems at all, then, if they recognize that they do, they take it upon themselves to resolve their issues. When they finally recognize that they would need some help, they are usually way too far down the road and then become more vulnerable to considering suicide as a solution to their problems.”

This is why CHOC, a community organisation based in Laval, developed a service called MASC, specifically dedicated to offering professional help services for men residing or studying in Laval who are dealing with a suicidal distress.

The Ressource Régionale Suicide is based in the CSSS of Laval and mostly offers suicide prevention tools, counselling for those who are worried that someone close to them might be considering ending their lives, as well as postvention services for the bereaved.

Mourning is never easy, but mourning the death of a person who died by suicide is even harder. Most relatives of people who committed suicide tend to have a sense of guilt, a sense of “I could’ve done something more”, a sense of responsibility and powerlessness. Postvention services are key, since relatives of someone who died of suicide may be at increased risk themselves.

“The first year of mourning is usually the hardest one, because it’s a year of “firsts”, the first year that the person is not there on your birthday, or the first time they are not present for this activity you used to always do together,” said Latreille. “The second year, that’s when you really start missing that person. Mourning the death by suicide of someone you loved is often described as a tsunami of emotions, so that one day you think you feel better, than something comes up and you go back down. Mourning takes a long time and it’s different for everyone.”

Young mourning children need to be intervened with, because they do not necessarily understand what happened, and they do not have the words to express how they feel. Tools have been developed to help them cope with the loss.

Despite common belief, a suicidal person doesn’t have his/her mind set on ending his/her life and it is still possible to talk them out of it. The 24th National Suicide Prevention Week took place on February 2-8 all around Quebec, to raise awareness about the help available to vulnerable people and their surroundings.

Media coverage of cases of suicide also needs to be adequate, since extensive coverage has proved that suicide is marked by effects of imitation and contagion, as outlined in a document called “Suicide Prevention and Media Treatment” produced by the AQPS.

In the past two decades, the suicide rate in Quebec has gone down by a considerable amount, which can be highly attributed to the multiple prevention campaigns that take place every year. The more we diffuse the help, the more the community mobilises, the more chances we have of seeing the numbers decrease year after year. Talking about it is the first step towards change.

There are a variety of resources available to help people in Laval, Laurentians, Lanaudière and in Montreal. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be vulnerable to suicide, don’t hesitate to contact one of the following resources.

Need help? Call 1(866) APPELLE (277-3553).
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Quebec, and it is confidential

MASC, help services for men vulnerable to suicide (450) 972-MASC (6272)

Postvention services, Ressource Régionale Suicide of the CSSS of Laval
(450) 627-2530 #34888

For more information on suicide prevention:
The Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia

Association québécoise de prevention du suicide