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Suicide & Self Harm: Part 3

This is the third installment of the Suicide & Self Harm blog series. In the first and second installments we reviewed how suicide and self harm differ and why it’s important to see them as two distinctive concepts. Of course nothing in life is ever that black and white and that’s why I wanted to take this time to explore how these two concepts overlap.

Although suicide and self harm differ there is one key way in which they overlap, elevated risk. Someone who has had a history of self injury is at an increased risk of suicide, in fact they are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than someone who hasn’t self injured. A history of self injury is the most important factor between teens who only consider suicide compared to those who attempt suicide. Self harm is one of the top two predictors of future suicide attempts. Researchers believe that this is due to the fact the people who self harm are desensitized to pain and to the fear associated with suicide.

In addition to elevated risk it’s important to look at the intention and the outcome of the action. Even if someone doesn’t intend to die while they are self harming, things can go wrong and people pass away unintentionally. The opposite is also true, sometimes people intend to die but end up surviving. See a chart here for a clearer perspective of this phenomenon.

People who self injure often stop as they learn new coping strategies. That being said just because they’ve stopped doesn’t mean that everything is fine. As with any sudden behaviour change, it could signal a risk for suicide. Talk to your loved one about suicide. They might have stopped self harming because they’ve made a plan to end their life, self harm no longer serves them.

Both suicide and self harm are serious, and should not be taken lightly. You can learn more about self harm here and more about suicide here.

If you are concerned about someone’s safety, consider calling a crisis line. You can call and get information on how to help your loved one or you can encourage your loved one to call to access additional supports. If you’re not sure where to call check out this listing of crisis lines across the country.

Also consider downloading our Be Safe App. This app is a great resource as it allows you to develop a safety plan and decide where to go for help. Check out this video for more information about the Be Safe app.

Notar, M. (2019). Suicidal or self-harming? Assessment and treatment of “at risk” teens [Course handout]. Kitchener, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University.