Print Edition: February 25, 2015
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10 to 24, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Within that age bracket, suicide accounts for over 24 per cent of deaths.
For 75 per cent of these people, there was a warning sign, UFV counselling department head Tia Noble explains. “It’s our responsibility as friends, as family to take [these signs] seriously and take action as needed,” she says.
While the statistics can be difficult to visualize, it isn’t difficult to recognize that mental health-related issues have affected all of us at some time or another. Many of us can recall a moment when we or our loved ones needed extra emotional support to cope with a difficult experience.
We aren’t always sure, however, where the line is drawn between difficulty coping and depression or suicide risk. Whether it’s personal or something that we see manifest in a loved one, assessing and responding to the signs of depression can be difficult without knowing what to look for.
According to the National Depression Screening Day office, there are a few particular signs to look for when you’re worried that a loved one is experiencing depression. An individual who may be experiencing depression is likely to become emotionally withdrawn, from loved ones as well as from activities that they would usually enjoy. They may show changes in sleeping patterns, appetite and even speed of movement. These changes in mood and activity are often accompanied by difficulty concentrating and strong thoughts of worthlessness or guilt.
When an individual has gone beyond depressive tendencies towards thoughts of suicide, there are a few critical signs to look for. It’s important to take statements like “life isn’t worth living,” “my family would be better off without me,” and “there’s nothing I can do to make it better” very seriously. As well, individuals planning to commit suicide can often be observed paying off debts, changing their wills, or giving away personal possessions.
Often the greatest difficulty when observing any of these traits in a loved one is knowing when to speak up and how to respond. It can be a challenge to find the right words or even bring ourselves to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. It’s one action, however, that can make all the difference in a situation of depression or suicide risk.
If you notice changes in a loved one, Noble recommends you trust your intuition. Respond to the situation by addressing the issues directly with the individual you are concerned about and contacting a UFV counsellor or crisis hotline accordingly.
When a loved one manifests any of the depressive or suicidal tendencies described, the first step is to take the signs seriously. Be willing to listen to your loved one if they are willing to share. Voice your concern over their behaviour and let the person know that you care and understand. Ask the individual if he or she has a specific plan and act accordingly. Be prepared to get professional help by contacting a suicide or crisis hotline.
The Fraser Health Crisis Line (1-877-820-7444) and BC Suicide Hotline (1-800-SUICIDE) are available 24 hours a day with trained professionals who will be able to direct you or a loved one to the right resources.
On March 25, UFV’s counselling department will be hosting a Mental Health screening at UFV’s Chilliwack campus aimed at reducing the stigma around depression and mental health. Students will be able to gather resources, speak to UFV counsellors and connect with other students on mental health-related issues.