Module 4: Suicide


Surveys reveal that it is not uncommon for students to report thinking about suicide. While many prefer to avoid the topic in discussion, it is very important to have an understanding of its facts to have a comprehensive grasp on mental health for yourself and for your students.

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada in ages 16-25 and accounts for 24% of all deaths.

    According to the Canadian results from the ACHA-NCHA student survey in spring of 2013

  • 9% of students report that they have “seriously” considered suicide

  • 1.3% have made suicide attempts

    Suicide is the act of ending one’s life. It is not a mental disorder however; mental illness is one of the most common causes of suicide.

    While most people often think of depression in relation to suicide, other mental illnesses such as anxiety, psychosis, substance disorders, and personality disorders amongst others are also present in cases of suicide.

    The most common response to suicidal ideation or the topic of suicide is simply no response at all, which is not the best approach. It is not possible to predict suicide with 100% accuracy but more risk factors present equals more danger.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the third leading cause of death worldwide amongst youth and, as a result, needs to be made a priority.


  • Talking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone killing him or herself.

  • Openly asking a person about suicidal intent lowers anxiety and opens up communication lowering the risk of an impulsive action.

  • Most times, people who take their own lives do so when they are alone.

  • The risk of suicide is much greater if they have consumed alcohol or have a means of access to harming themselves.

  • Crisis is often the key point in the development of a plan to kill oneself as suicide presents itself as a permanent solution to a problem that may be temporary, such as stressful relationship, financial or academic situations.


Suicidal behaviour is often characterized by three components:

  • Suicidal ideation - which includes non-persistent ideas about death, dying or suicide.

  • Suicidal intent - persistent thoughts about suicide and possibly contemplating how life would be without them. This component goes as far as actually deciding to kill oneself. Look out for phrases such as:

    • “I’m going to kill myself”

    • “You would be better off without me”

    • “You won’t have to worry about me much longer”

  • Suicidal plan - this incorporates a definite plan of how the act will be committed. The individual would have figured out how and obtained any anything they would need. This component requires immediate referral to security and should be taken very seriously.

It has been found that most people who are suicidal will express their suicidal intent in the week preceding the suicide attempt.

Suicide is not unique to any particular individual. It can be found in every culture, society, and ethnic group and it cuts across all age, gender, racial, religious, or socio-economic categories. Always trust your gut feeling. If something seems strange, inquire about it or seek advice from The Counselling Centre.


  • Suicide is not a mental disorder but mental illness is a common cause of suicide.
  • Talking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone committing suicide.
  • It is better to respond when someone demonstrates suicidal ideation or the topic of suicide comes up.
  • Suicidal ideation, suicidal intent and a suicidal plan all constitute suicidal behaviour and need to be addressed.
  • People often open up about suicidal intent prior to a suicide attempt so any mention of suicide should be taken seriously and addressed.
  • It is important to trust your gut feeling.