Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Each year, 1 in 6 Albertans will seriously think about suicide. There are an average of 2400 hospital stays and more than 6000 emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries, the result of suicide attempts, annually. More than 400 Albertans will die by suicide each year.

The University of Alberta is committed to supporting staff and students in both their work and personal lives by providing comprehensive, preventative programs and services.

Suicide has no boundaries. It can affect our family, friends, and colleagues. This information is being made available to raise awareness and provide access to necessary information on suicide prevention, but also to ensure that all of us can adapt our behaviour and respond appropriately in these situations.

If you or someone you know is currently in crisis, please click here. In the event your safety, of that of others, is at immediate risk, please dial 911.

If you are interested in a presentation on Suicide for your faculty or department, please email Organizational Health and Effectiveness.

The Myths

Talking about suicide may "plant the seed".

Having open, honest and frank discussions about suicide does not create or increase the risk of it occurring.

People who talk about it don't really mean it.

Few people commit suicide without attempting to notify someone of their intent. It may be their way of asking someone to help them live. 

A person considering suicide wants to die.

What most people are looking for is an end to their pain or escape from a troubling situation. Most are ambivalent about the decision and are caught between wanting to live and finding a way out of their current situation.

After a person tries to commit suicide, it is unlikely that they will try again.

Studies suggest that 4 out of 5 individuals who die by suicide have made at least one prior attempt.

There were no signs.

On third of deaths by suicide are preceded by warning signs.

Suicide is only a risk through adolescence and early adult years.

No age group, race, religion or gender is immune to the risk of suicide.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide
  • Stressful life events (e.g. leaving home for the first time, family changes)
  • Living with a serious illness or injury
  • Seriously injuring of causing the death of another (e.g. motor vehicle accident)
  • Suffering a major loss of a friend, family member, relationship or possession
  • Fear, embarrassment, or humiliation (e.g. failing school, job loss, not meeting others' expectations)
  • Substance abuse

Warning Signs

There are no guaranteed predictors for suicide. However, there are important warning signs to recognize:

  • History of previous threats or attempts
  • Preoccupation with death and/or dying
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Giving away possessions or cherished items
  • Change in personality or behaviour
  • Change in sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Increased use of substances (e.g. alcohol, drugs)
  • Family disruptions (e.g. separation, divorce, death, separated by distance)

How Can I Help?

  • Talk about it. Talking about suicide will help remove the stigma and encourage people to reach out for help.
  • Educate yourself on the risk factors, warning signs, and available resources.
  • Trust your instincts and follow through with action if you have suspicions about someone you know.
  • Be alert to changes in behaviour
  • If someone's intentions are unclear, ask for clarification. Ask them if they have a plan.
  • Have an open, honest, and frank discussion
  • Listen without judgment
  • Allow the person to talk freely
  • Acknowledge their feelings
  • Ask if there is anything you can do
  • Remain calm, supportive, and patient
  • Be genuine and honest in your concern
  • Encourage and support them in seeking assistance from a mental health/medical professional. Offer to make the call for them.
  • Stay with them or make a plan with the person for the next few hours or days
  • If they are reluctant to get help, be firm in your intentions to get assistance for them
  • Contact 911 if the individual is posing a threat to themselves or others

Resource Material

Contact Us

Organizational Health and Effectiveness
Fax: 780-492-0798

Quick Links

Suicide Talk About It brochure