September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time when we collectively shine a spotlight on a pressing global issue that affects countless lives. While suicide touches the lives of people from all walks of life, this month, we focus on a specific concern that demands our awareness and empathy — suicide in women.
Behind the statistics and figures lie the stories, struggles, and resilience of women facing unimaginable challenges. In this month of heightened awareness, compassion, and action, let us delve into the complexities surrounding suicide among women, aiming to understand and actively contribute to prevention and support.
The Statistics Surrounding Suicide in Women
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, with more than 700,000 people dying by suicide each year. It’s estimated that for every completed suicide, there are many more suicide attempts.
Additional research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry revealed a concerning trend…the rate of suicides among girls aged 10-14 has continuously increased over nine consecutive years. This alarming trend peaked in 2018 when the death rate for girls in this age group was around double that of boys. However, the male suicide rate had a gradual decline during this time.
We also know that while men have a higher suicide rate, women are more likely to attempt suicide. It’s clear that there are gender discrepancies when it comes to suicide rates, but the reasons behind these gender differences are complex and multifaceted.
Adolescents and elderly women are particularly vulnerable. Young women often face the pressures of societal expectations, peer pressure, and bullying, which can all contribute to suicidal ideation. Among elderly women, social isolation and health-related issues can also be risk factors
Recognizing the signs of suicide is a vital skill that can make a profound difference in someone’s life. It’s more than just identifying the obvious cues. Suicide prevention and awareness are about listening, empathizing, and truly understanding the silent cries for help.
Often, these signs are subtle, hidden behind smiles or laughter, and only become apparent when we delve deeper into someone’s emotional world. Paying attention to changes in behaviour, expressions of hopelessness, giving away possessions, increased substance abuse, and withdrawal from social activities can be the first steps in identifying someone who may be at risk.
Recognizing the Signs:
Changes in Behaviour: Look for significant changes in behaviour, such as withdrawal from social activities, hobbies, or relationships.
Expressions of Hopelessness: Pay attention to verbal and written expressions of hopelessness or feelings of being a burden to others.
Mood Swings: Frequent mood swings, extreme moodiness, or a sudden shift from despair to an unusually calm demeanour can be warning signs.
Increased Substance Abuse: An increase in alcohol or drug use can be an indicator of emotional distress.
Giving Away Possessions: Some individuals contemplating suicide may give away their belongings as a way to say goodbye.
Reckless Behavior: Engaging in reckless or risky behaviours that put personal safety at risk.
Loss of Interest: Losing interest in activities, relationships, or responsibilities that were once important.
Self-Harm: Engaging in self-harming behaviours, such as cutting or burning, as a way to cope with emotional distress.
Remember that it’s essential to take any signs of suicide seriously. If you suspect someone may be at risk, reach out to them, listen without judgment, and encourage them to seek professional help immediately. Contact a crisis hotline or seek assistance from mental health professionals or emergency services.
We Can All Play A Role In Suicide Prevention
Suicide prevention is a collective effort that involves individuals, communities, and society as a whole. We can help by raising awareness and having open, non-judgmental conversations about mental health which can help reduce stigma and encourage people to get help.
In November, the Government of Canada will launch 988 which is the three-digit dialling for Talk Suicide, Canada’s national suicide and mental health crisis helpline (now available at 1-833-456-4566).
While suicide among women is a complex issue influenced by many factors, understanding the statistics, recognizing the signs, and implementing preventative measures are critical steps in reducing suicide rates among women. It’s essential that we all play a role in creating a supportive environment where individuals in distress feel comfortable seeking help and finding hope in the midst of despair. Remember, you are not alone, and help is always available.