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Helping a loved one with suicidal thoughts

On September 10, 2020

As a caregiver, at some point you may be faced with the fact that the person to whom you are providing care is having suicidal thoughts. Where can you find support and how can you handle the situation?


1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553)

If you or your loved is in distress, do not hesitate to call the dedicated hotline of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS). Support workers are available to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This toll-free line is available throughout Quebec. 1-866-277-3553.

However, if you think that you or your loved one may be in immediate danger, call 911 right away.

Equipping yourself for greater understanding

Many factors can bring someone to want to end their life, but they all share the commonality of the person experiencing a feeling “unbearable distress, and a loss of hope and meaning in their life.” In other words, they feel like they are at an impasse and powerless against their suffering. Action can be taken to help them with this feeling of helplessness.

To find out more about how to handle the situation, consult the Comprendre and Aider un proche sections of the AQPS site (in French).

Warning signs

In most cases, a person who is planning to end their life will express their intention to their family and/or friends through clues and behaviours. If you recognize these warning signs in your loved one, seek help quickly.

1. Direct and indirect messages: The person talks about their intention to commit suicide explicitly or ambiguously, by talking about death or feelings of being overwhelmed or burnt out.

2. Behavioural clues: The person’s attitude may change. They may, for example, get rid of meaningful items, isolate themselves, put their affairs in order (settle conflicts, will, etc.), change their habits or show an interest in morbid things.

3. Emotional clues: The person may show a general disinterest, loss of desire, great sadness, aggressiveness, discouragement, contradictory and changing emotions, mood swings or anxiety.

4. Cognitive clues: The person may have more difficulty than usual focusing, be incoherent (e.g., confused speech), no longer be motivated, have memory lapses or difficulty making decisions.

5. Symptoms of depression: Depression may be a possibility, if you notice the presence of the following five symptoms for a period of more than two weeks: depressed mood, significant sadness, loss of interest and pleasure, weight loss or gain, trouble sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, agitation or slowness, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, indecision or suicidal thoughts.

Do you or your loved one need help?

  • The Association québécoise de prévention du suicide line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout Quebec: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553).
  • Info-Social: To find out more about a difficult situation or to find resources in your region, dial 811 and choose the option for Info-Social.
  • If there is an immediate danger, dial 911.