Expressions of suicidal thoughts and/or intentions should be taken seriously. One of the ways to minimize the risk of suicide is being able to recognize its warning signs and knowing how to respond.
RECOGNIZING SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS
Use the following acronym to help remember the warning signs that a person may show when they are thinking or planning to die by suicide.
IS PATH WARM?
- I Ideation: Thoughts of killing oneself
- S Substance Abuse: Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- P Purposelessness: Expressing that life is without meaning
- A Anxiety: Increased anxiety and agitation
- T Trapped: Expressing a feeling of being “trapped” and/or “no way out”
- H Hopelessness: Pessimism, seeing no possibility of improvement
- W Withdrawal: Isolating oneself off from loved ones
- A Anger: Uncontrolled anger and rage
- R Recklessness: Acting impulsively
- M Mood Changes: Drastic mood swings
If you are experiencing the above warning signs, a helpful resource can be the Montreal Suicide Hotline at 514-723-4000. This service is 24/7 and bilingual. McGill crisis support information is also available. Additional crisis centres and telephone support are available across Canada.
If you witness, hear, or see anyone showing these signs above, seek help immediately by contacting McGill Mental Health Service, or calling 9-1-1 after 5pm.
KNOWING HOW TO RESPOND TO SOMEONE EXPRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT SUICIDE
- Be direct
- Be willing to listen
- Be non-judgmental
- Be available
- Don’t antagonize
- Don’t act shocked
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy
- Offer hope in a realistic manner
- Take action (remove means if safe to do so)
- Get help
Supporting someone who may share with you their suicidal thoughts or intentions may feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. You can encourage and refer the person to seek professional mental health care. As you care for this person, respect your limits and take time to care for yourself as well.
American Association of Suicidology. (2015). Knowing the warning signs of suicide. Retrieved from http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs The JED foundation.
Protecting your child’s mental health: What can parents do?. Retrieved from https://www.jedfoundation.org/assets/Programs/Program_downloads/parentsguide.pdf