The following are some frequently asked questions about suicide:

Q. Why do people kill themselves?
A. Experts in the field suggest that a suicidal person is feeling so much pain that he or she can see no other option. The suicidal state of mind has been described as constricted. People consider suicide when they feel hopeless and unable to see alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behaviour is most often related to a mental disorder (depression) or to alcohol or other substance abuse. Suicidal behaviour is also more likely to occur when people experience stressful events such as major losses.

Q. What should you do if someone tells you they are thinking about suicide?
A. Take that person seriously.  Listen and don’t judge. Encourage the person to talk to a professional for help.  If someone is in immediate danger of harming himself or herself, do not leave the person alone. You may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as calling 911. When someone is suicidal, it is important to make sure the person does not have access to firearms or other lethal means of suicide.

Q. How do male and female suicide rates compare?
A. The ratio of male to female suicide is approximately 4:1. Males die by suicide at a higher rate than women. Women attempt suicide more often.  Men often use more lethal means when attempting suicide.

Q. If I think about suicide, am I abnormal?
A. You are not abnormal and not alone as many people do think about suicide at certain times in their lives.  However, if you think about suicide often, it may indicate you are depressed. If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone for help and support. You can turn to the agencies and organizations listed on this web site for help.

Q. Does depression increase the risk of suicide?
A. The majority of people with depression do not die by suicide.  Having major depression does increase suicide risk compared to people without depression. The risk of death by suicide may, in part, be related to how severely depressed a person is.

Another way to think about suicide risk and depression is to look at the lives of people who have died by suicide and see what proportion of them were depressed. From that perspective, it is estimated that more than 60 percent of people who die by suicide have had a mood disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia). Younger persons who kill themselves often have a substance abuse disorder in addition to being depressed.

Q. Does suicide solve problems?
A. No. Suicide solves nothing. In only makes things worse. Getting help and feeling better are the only ways to solve problems associated with suicidal feelings.

Q. Does alcohol and drug abuse increase the risk for suicide?
A. Alcohol and substance abuse problems can contribute to suicidal behaviour in a few ways.  People who abuse drugs and/or alcohol often have other risk factors for suicide, including depression, social problems and financial problems. This combination of problems may make them feel suicidal and unable to cope.

Q. Is it possible to predict suicide?
A. There is no definite way to predict suicidal behaviour.  There are factors that place a person at higher risk but they can’t predict who will actually die by suicide.

(Adapted from information from the Centre for Suicide Prevention.)