Preventing suicide
Dr Jozelle Miller
September 5, 2023
Preventing suicide

The month of September has been identified as National Suicide Prevention month. Suicide is a major public health issue globally, with long-lasting effects on individuals, families, and communities. It is imperative that conversations are had, about how suicide can be prevented; and knowing the strategies to be employed by all levels of Society. Suicide can be prevented by learning the warning signs, promoting prevention and resilience, and committing to social change.

What leads to suicide?

There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.

Risk factors

Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.


Mental health conditions
Substance use problems
Bipolar disorder
Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
Conduct disorder
Anxiety disorders
Serious physical health conditions including pain
Traumatic brain injury


Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs.
Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment.
Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide


Previous suicide attempts
Family history of suicide
Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Protective Factors
Access to mental health care, and being proactive about mental health
Feeling connected to family and community support
Problem-solving and coping skills
Limited access to lethal means
Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage connecting and help-seeking, discourage suicidal behavior, or create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem.

Warning signs
Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behaviour or the presence of entirely new behaviours. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behaviour is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

If a person talks about:
Killing themselves
Feeling hopeless
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Feeling trapped
Unbearable pain

Behaviours that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods.
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
Giving away prized possessions

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
Loss of interest
Relief/Sudden Improvement

Beyond direct interventions to stop an impending suicide, methods may include:
treating mental illness
improving coping strategies of people who are at risk.
reducing risk factors for suicide, such as substance misuse, poverty and social vulnerability
giving people hope for a better life after current problems are resolved.
calling a suicide hotline number
If you are concerned about someone in your life, learn more about the ways you can get help and discover tools you can use to have real honest conversations about mental health.