Warning signs

  • Talking about suicide 
  • Plans for suicide (e.g. seeking out lethal means)
  • Social withdrawal (e.g., from family, friends, activities they previously enjoyed) 
  • Lack of purpose 
  • Sense of hopelessness for the future and feelings of helplessness 
  • Underlying messages of guilt, shame, worthless, self-loathing, wanting to escape, desperation, marginalization, rejection
  • Feeling like a burden to others  
  • Substantial differences in mood (e.g., anxiety, anger, sadness, helplessness) 
  • Increasing use of substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs) 
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Reckless behaviour 
  • Giving away possessions 
  • Significant changes in academic performance, absenteeism from classes
  • Significant life event(s) including a death loss, job loss, relationship loss, suicide experience, or abuse.

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger or risk of suicide

A student shares his journey from having thoughts of suicide, to reaching out for help, to recovery.

If you are having thoughts of suicide

According to the JED Foundation, suicidal thoughts can range from fleeting thoughts about death – like wondering, “what does it feel like to die?” to specific plans about suicide – for example, thinking about how and when to end one’s life. Even passing thoughts of suicide are cause for concern, as they can get worse if they are not addressed.

Someone with thoughts of suicide may feel:

  • Emotional or physical pain and wanting the pain to end
  • Disconnected from others or withdrawn from friends and family
  • Trapped in an intolerable situation
  • Like a burden to others or telling others that they would be better without them
  • Rejection 
  • Loneliness
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Hopeless, helpless

Suicidal feelings may worsen without help. Escalating behaviours may include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Engaging in unsafe sex
  • Increasing drug or alcohol use
  • Thinking, talking or posting online about death
  • Changes in diet
  • Changes in sleep patterns (either sleeping more or less)
  • Changes in mood (changes in baseline behaviours)
  • Mood swings of extreme sadness, rage or anxiety
  • Feeling increased irritability or agitation
  • A sudden shift in behaviour from agitated or angry to calm or even cheerful 

You are not alone

There is no single way or “right” way to cope with thoughts of suicide. People will experience thoughts of suicide differently and therefore, coping with these thoughts will be different for every individual. However, suicidal thoughts are temporary and with the right treatment and support you can recover.

What you can do if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide?

  • Recognize warning signs. What sorts of thoughts, images, moods, situations, and behaviors indicate to you that a crisis may be developing? Write these down in your own words.

  • Identify and use coping strategies that work for you. 

  • Reach out to someone. Find someone you trust or feel comfortable with. This could be a friend, family member, spiritual advisor or a mental health professional. The support of others can help you through difficult times – you are not alone. 

  • Create a contact list of helpful resources. Make sure to include the number to your local crisis line. 

  • Contact a mental health professional. Connect with a counsellor. Finding the right therapy and therapist that best suites you may take time. They can help you discover the source of your suicidal thoughts.

  • Talk to your doctor. As a starting point, you may want to start a conversation with your family doctor

  • Addiction services: Narcotics Anonymous; Adult Children of Alcoholics; 12 step program; and Addiction Services Directory  

  • Make a safety plan. Work with a trusted family member or friend, or professional to develop a suicide safety plan. It is helpful to involve important people around you, as they need to know how best to care for you and keep you safe if you’re thinking about suicide. 

  • USask online wellness information. Check out USask online wellness information and an inspiring collection of stories of people who have attempted suicide or seriously considered suicide - the reasons; live through this; and our side of suicide

At USask

  • Student Affairs and Outreach: A team of social workers provide immediate support to students who are in distress, crisis, need help with a complicated situation or are experiencing life events that impedes their personal and academic success.
  • Student Wellness Centre: A primary health care centre with doctors, nurses, mental health nurses, counsellors, psychiatrists, and a dietitian.
  • Peer Health USask: Student volunteers who are trained and available for confidential, non-judgemental listening and support.
  • USask Faith Leaders: A multi-faith group from across the religious and denominational spectrum who serve as a spiritual wellness support resource for the USask community.
  • Empower Me: Free mental health counselling and support is provided through your USSU and GSA student health plans.
  • Protective Services: Works closely with the campus community, Saskatoon Police Service and other agencies to maintain a safe campus. They respond to emergencies.

In Saskatoon

In Prince Albert

In Regina

Saskatchewan and Canada

Talking about suicide can be difficult, scary, and sometimes awkward, but asking for help is a brave and courageous thing to do. It is also difficult, exhausting, and alienating keeping secrets from people. You may be fearful or ashamed, but you are not alone in how you feel, in fact you may be surprised how many people you know who have dealt with or are dealing with similar situations. Remember there are people who can help you through this difficult time. 

Describe what is happening and how you are feeling. Be direct, open, and honest about your feelings.
  • How long have you been having these thoughts? 
  • How frequently do they occur?
  • Are there triggers or warning signs that you have experienced? 
  • Do you have a plan or have you decided how you would want to die?

Why you should talk with someone 
  • For support and understanding
  • To connect with others with similar experiences
  • To help figure out what to do about how you are feeling
  • To ease the burden of keeping it a secret

What happens when I communicate my feelings and thoughts of suicide?

  • You will discover that you are not alone, there are people who can support and help you.
  • You will learn strategies to help manage feelings and thoughts of suicide.

When you tell someone about your suicide thoughts, you can’t expect them to keep it a secret. They need to be able to help you stay safe and that usually means calling in extra help.

Want to learn more?

  • Eat well-balanced meals
  • Take a time out: practice yoga, listen to music, get a massage, learn relaxation techniques.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine which can aggravate anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep: when you are stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest. Research shows that poor sleep may increase the risk and potentially even contribute to the presence of mental illness. Good sleep may serve as a protective factor that promotes mental and emotional well-being. Practice good sleep hygiene to promote sleep: set up a waking and sleeping schedule, only use your bedroom for sleep or sex, and avoid screens in your bedroom (e.g., tv, computer, phones).  
  • Exercising daily helps to maintain your health. Reviews of past literature on the impact of physical activity on mental well-being indicate that physical activity can contribute to reductions in our stress response, anxiety, and depression. It is recommended to add aerobic or resistance training to your day – an added bonus of which is improved sleep.
  • Leisure activities: Research shows that taking part in leisure activities (e.g., visiting others, spending time in nature, playing sports) is associated with psychological and physical wellbeing. If you’re going through tough times, it may feel like there is nothing you would enjoy doing. Try to think back to a time when you felt better and the types of activities that you enjoyed doing then and give one of those activities a try. Doing this may provide a break from any negative thoughts.
  • Breathing - Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly. Count to 10 slowly. Repeat.
  • Put your thoughts into perspective: Accept that you cannot control everything – is it really as bad as you think?
  • Practice positive self talk: make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Practice self-compassion: We can nurture our self-compassion through intentional practices such as giving ourselves a gentle hug and taking self compassion breaks.
  • Practice spiritual self-care by engaging in activities that nurture your spirit.
  • Learn what triggers your thoughts of suicide.
  • Practice grounding techniques that help to ground you in the present moment.

Learn more about coping strategies and taking care of your mental health with these resources.

A safety plan is a written plan that includes resources for support when things get tough, activities that make you feel better when you’re feeling down, and reminders of reasons to live if thoughts of suicide arise. A safety plan should include:

  • Information about when to use the plan. List the kinds of situations, thoughts, feelings or other warning signs that indicate something is wrong.
  • A list of things that you can do that help you feel calm, comforted, and distracted. Think of soothing, calming activities that you can employ when you’re feeling suicidal.
  • A list of all your reasons for living. It can be helpful to refer to this list when you’re feeling suicidal, as you can lose focus on the positive aspects of your life and concentrate only on the pain you’re experiencing. Your list can remind you of these positives you may have forgotten. Sometimes it is hard to achieve perspective when having thoughts of suicide, and this list of reasons can help you to focus on the positive things in your life
  • People you can talk to when you’re feeling suicidal. Include their names and contact details, and make sure you have back ups. Identify your support system
  • Professionals you can talk to if you need to, again including their names and up-to-date contact details. Identify your support system
  • A plan of how to make your environment safe. Think about items you might be likely to use to hurt yourself, and detail how you can remove or secure them. Your plan may also include avoiding things you know make you feel worse.
  • Emergency contacts that you can use if you are still feeling unsafe. List the name and address of your nearest emergency department or crisis helpline.
  • Make a commitment to your safety plan. This means promising yourself that you will implement your plan if you need to. The commitment could also involve promising (out loud) to a family member, friend or professional that you will follow your plan.

Download these apps for making a safety plan.

How to support someone having thoughts of suicide

How do I talk to someone thinking about suicide? Created by the Centre for Suicide Prevention

Take all suicide threats or attempts seriously.

  • Recognize and watch for warning signs.
  • Respond by reaching out and talking to the individual. Ask about suicide. This can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it can save a life. You may feel anxious, scared, nervous and unprepared, that’s okay.
  • Don’t be afraid, lean in and ask the question, it is the only way you will know if your family member, friend, peer, colleague, or loved one is having thoughts of suicide.
    • “Are you thinking about suicide?”
    • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • Be direct and clear. Stay away from using self-harm language such as “are you thinking about harming yourself?” This does not give you a clear answer about suicide.
  • If the person is thinking about suicide, ask if they have a plan and if they have a timeline.
  • Do not promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.


Learn more about being an empathetic listener by watching this 3-minute video by Brene Brown: Empathy vs. Sympathy
  • Listen with the intent to understand and not respond.
  • Do not look for silver linings as emphasizing the hopeful side is not always the best way to respond or cope with difficult situations. 
  • Do not rush the conversation.
  • Once people have a chance to talk about their situation with someone, they often find solutions for themselves.
  • Try to “feel” with the person and remind them that they’re not alone.
  • Help them to identify and focus on what they have to live for. Don’t impose your reasons for them to stay alive.

Hopeful phrases you can use to support someone who is having thoughts of suicide:

  • You are not alone
  • I’m here for you
  • This is important
  • This is serious
  • That sounds really hard
  • How can I help?
  • One step at a time, one minute at a time - you've got this
  • Feelings are temporary. What are some coping strategies that have helped you in the past?
  • Reach out for help, you are not alone and YOU MATTER.
  • Your illness does not define you
  • Breathe
  • Don’t lose hope, recovery is possible
  • HOPE (Hold On, Pain Ends)
  • Stay; tomorrow needs you

  • Provide them with a number to a local 24/7 confidential crisis line – save this number in your phone.
  • Help them connect with a trusted family member, Elder, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional including a social worker, psychologist, counsellor, nurse, or doctor. 
  • Draw upon the resources from the person’s support network.
  • Make sure to follow up with the person, it helps create stronger relationships and increases accountability.

If the person is at imminent risk, call 911 or visit the closet emergency department. Do not leave them alone until help is provided. 

Grieving a suicide loss

Grief is a natural reaction experienced by people after a death loss. While all people will experience grief at some point in their lives, experiences of grief are unique to the individual and can differ based on interpersonal relationships, gender, religion, race, and ethnicity.

Grieving a death by suicide is like no other grief. While it shares characteristics with other types of grief; it can be complicated by factors that are unique to suicide.

  • Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, people may be unsure how to respond to and support someone who has lost someone to suicide. This may lead to avoidance of the grieving person which could lead to feelings of isolation and abandonment. 
  • Some religions limit the rituals available to people who have died by suicide, which might leave them feeling deprived of having some of the usual tools to help with coping.
  • Some people, based on cultural, religious, and societal beliefs, hold negative attitudes about suicide. Knowing some individuals feel this way adds another element of distress.
  • The bereaved person may be consumed with trying to comprehend why this would happen. This questioning can lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame, and bereaved individuals might ruminate over what they could have done to prevent the death.

Due to these unique factors, those who are grieving a death by suicide may experience complicated grief, which is characterized by persistent, intense, and prolonged symptoms such as social withdrawal, avoidance of daily life activities, feeling a lack of belonging, intense emotional pain, and self-blaming. 

Immediately following a death, you may experience:

  • Abandoned
  • Angry
  • A need to understand why?
  • Anxiety
  • A search for meaning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Emptiness
  • Guilt
  • In denial
  • Intense emotional pain
  • Lonely
  • Longing
  • Numbness
  • Overwhelmed
  • Regret
  • Relief
  • Rejection
  • Sad
  • Shock
  • Trauma
  • Yearning

These feelings may feel ever-present and come in waves or bursts brought on by reminders of or discussions about the deceased. Once the reality of the loss begins to sink in, over time, the waves become less intense and less frequent. For most bereaved persons, these feelings gradually diminish in intensity, allowing the individual to accept the loss and re-establish emotional balance. 

The feelings of loss, sadness, and loneliness experienced after a death loss can be magnified in people bereaved by suicide. 

Losing someone to suicide may trigger intense emotions including 

  • Shock, disbelief and emotional numbness might set in. You may have a hard time believing your loved one, friend, peer, colleague, died by suicide.
  • You might be angry with the person who died by suicde and yourself or others for missing clues. 
  • Guilt. You might replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for the death. 
  • Despair. You might be overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness or helplessness. You might even consider suicide yourself. 
  • Confusion. Many people try to make some sense out of the death or try to understand why the person took their life. You will likely always have some unanswered questions. 
  • Feelings of rejections. You might wonder why your relationship wasn’t enough to keep someone from dying by suicide. 

Reactions may last weeks or months. You may experience nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities. Find and use healthy coping strategies. Remember that grief is a normal response to loss.

A suicide loss can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be mindful of your own well-being.

  • Keep in touch and seek support. Give yourself permission to ask for the help you need. Reach out to loved ones, friends, Elders or spiritual leaders, a mental health professional for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk.

  • Keep on talking. Many suicide survivors say they talked their way through grief. As you heal, talk about your memories, and find others who you can share your pain with.

  • Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you. There is no  “right” way to grieve a loss. 

  • Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a significant loss and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it has been “long enough.”

  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions can be painful reminders. It is okay to be sad. 

  • Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide – and that’s okay. Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line. 

  • Take care of your physical and emotional health. Try to eat nutritious meals, get enough rest, and exercise moderately.  Practicing self-compassion, breathing exercises, and meditation can help with feelings of stress.

  • Reassure yourself that it is normal for feelings to come and go.
    Some people describe experiencing their emotions in “waves” or “bursts” over time. Some days will be better than others.

  • Give yourself permission to enjoy life and to have fun. Continue to do the things you like to do. Many individuals feel that it is not appropriate or respectful to experience positive emotions during a time of significant loss. However, an important part of recovery involves experiencing all of your feelings, including hope and happiness.

  • Consider a support group for people impacted by suicide. Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief may help you find a sense of purpose or strength. However, if you find going to these groups keeps you ruminating on your loss, seek out other methods of support. 

  • Try journaling or the use music, art, or other creative means to explore and work through your grief. 

Remind yourself: You are not blame for the choice made by another person.

Reactions may last weeks or months. You may experience nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities. Find and use healthy coping strategies. Remember that grief is a normal response to loss.

Want to learn more? Read these helpful articles.

Grief is a personal experience; no two people will respond in the same way. 

  • Be focused and present.

  • Offer practical and emotional support. 

  • Your role as a support person is to listen to what the person wants to share. Avoid asking for more information. Asking why questions may lead to feelings of discomfort and self-blame.

  • Listen without judgment and with empathy.

  • Allow them an opportunity to tell their story, in the way they want to tell it, sometimes over and over again. 

  • Acknowledge the pain the person is feeling and allow them to be sad. Do not minimize their grief and avoid silver lining statements. 

  • Don’t avoid the person grieving a death by suicide. They may need connection. Reach out and make yourself available when you can.

  • Remember that even small acts can be comforting to those who are grieving.

Want to learn more?

How we talk about suicide matters, not only in the language we use but also how we share stories. Because of the relationship between suicide and reports of suicide by the media, it is imperative that media reporting follow safe reporting guidelines set out by the World Health Organization and the safe messaging and conversations field guide titled Reporting on Mental Health, developed by the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma and endorsed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. 

While these guidelines are intended for the media, we can learn from these guidelines in terms of sharing our own experiences. 

When sharing stories, Do:

  • Share hopeful stories of people coping with negative life events and suicidality. Sharing stories that include information on how individual’s cope with and overcome negative life events is valuable. Doing this may help people who are experiencing tough times to utilize the same positive coping tools. 
  • Include information on resources for seeking support. When sharing stories, including information on resources that are high quality and can be accessed 24/7 can be helpful for those who may be feeling distressed as a result of hearing the story. 

When sharing stories, Don’t:

  • Repeat myths about suicide. Avoid perpetuating the myths that exist about suicide. Instead, try to include information on the facts about suicide. See the common myths and facts about suicide section on page 9 of the full toolkit. 
  • Glamourize or normalize suicide. Avoid glamourizing suicide. For example, celebrity suicides are often widely shared; however, this wide-spread sharing could imply that society reveres suicidal behaviour and could unintentionally lead to suicidal behaviour in others. Furthermore, avoid language that normalizes suicide. For instance, saying “that’s social suicide” serves to normalize suicide and reduces perceptions of the severity of suicide.  
  • Share the means or location of the suicide. Sharing the means and location of a suicide can increase the risk of others using the same suicide method or location. 
  • Share media related to the suicide. For similar reasons to not sharing the means or location of suicide, it is important to refrain from sharing images or videos related to the suicide. Likewise, suicide notes, texts, emails, and social media posts should not be shared.

Want to learn more? Read this article.

Want to learn more about suicide prevention, intervention and postvention including factors that impact students?

If you or someone you know is in need of help

Get connected to campus supports

These campus support services are available for free to USask students or are offered through your student health and dental plan.