I’m honoured to share this important guest post from Melissa Howard. You can visit Melissa’s website here: http://stopsuicide.info/
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Amanda Todd was a bright, promising 15-year-old with her whole life ahead of her. But this British Columbia teenager sank into prolonged depression and substance abuse as a result of verbal bullying and physical abuse. In 2012, she posted a disturbing video on YouTube in which she described through written messages the ordeals she had endured. She received counseling and antidepressant medications, but these measures could not quiet the inner voices urging her toward self-destruction.
In October 2012, Amanda died from an overdose of medication, one of the thousands of Canadians who end their own lives each year. Her story riveted the nation and drew much-deserved attention to this crisis, which has since grown to almost epidemic proportions across the country.
Each year, about 4,000 Canadians end their own lives. Almost 300 of those people are children or teenagers. Many thousands more attempt suicide but fail. Experts believe that problems such as cyber-bullying, viral Internet posts, and the increasing depersonalization of everyday life are driving millions of people in Canada and the United States to contemplate taking their own lives.
Preventing these tragedies requires, not only government and private organization intervention, but diligence on the part of everyday people who suspect an acquaintance of considering suicide. Here are some key warning signs to watch out for, according to Newsweek:
● Recent trauma, including job loss or disrupted relationships.
● A history of family conflict.
● Underdeveloped coping skills for dealing with the problems and disappointments life can present.
● Threatening to commit suicide or causing self-harm through cutting, taking toxic substances, or engaging in risky behavior.
Suicide and Substance Abuse: The Link Is Clear
Substance abuse is a primary risk factor for suicide in Canada. Here are some troubling findings from the Center for Suicide Prevention:
● Forty percent of those who seek treatment for substance abuse have attempted suicide at least once in their lives.
● Acute alcohol intoxication is present in up to 40 percent of suicide attempts.
● Substance abuse dramatically elevates suicide risk among Canadians struggling with mental illness.
Treating substance abuse requires a combination of medical supervision and psychological counseling. In many cases, 12-step programs and other self-help options can defuse suicidal feelings and help the person to achieve long-lasting recovery.
What You Can Do
If someone you know is contemplating suicide, then immediate intervention is critical. Here are the steps you should take:
● Show the person that you care about him or her well-being. Most people who attempt suicide believe that no one is concerned about the problems they’re having.
● Encourage the person to open up about what’s troubling her or him. When he or she talks, remember not to show judgment or offer easy answers. Try to practice reflective listening skills, which involve paying attention to what the person is saying and repeating back to her or him your understanding of the comments.
● Refer the person to a counseling hotline or other resources. Canada now has both phone and web-based counseling resources with counselors ready to help at any time.
● Contact law enforcement or other authorities if you fear the person is in imminent danger of ending her or his life. Stay within eyesight of her or him until help arrives.
● Always take talk of suicide seriously. Your prompt action may save a life. The belief that those who threaten suicide never attempt it is a myth.
● Raise awareness of the issue among friends and family members.
What to Do if You Are the One Thinking of Suicide
Seek help right away. The resources listed above are yours to access anytime you need them. Talk to a friend or loved one if you can. Above all, take the time to think things over and seek other solutions. Suicide is a mistake you can never undo.