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Self-Harm & Suicide

Both suicide and self-harm are often seen as the same thing. Although they may share similar characteristics, they are unique and require different types of tools to get the appropriate support.

Suicide and self-harm can be scary to think about, especially when it comes to someone you care about. Sometimes it can be taboo to talk about, especially in different cultures where mental health and illness is not talked about.

It is important to remember that suicide and self-harm can occur across all groups and communities regardless of age, ethnicity, and other factors.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm or self-injury means that you hurt yourself on purpose, as a way for to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and/or frustration. People who self-harm do not intend to die.


However, self-harm can turn into suicidal tendencies when people are unable to cope with the feelings of pain or are unable to use self-harm as a coping method.


Forms of Self-Harm:

  • Cutting, scratching, burning the skin

  • Self-hitting, punching

  • Using sharp objects on the skin

  • Overdosing on medication or chemicals


What is Suicide?

  • Suicide is intentionally taking action to end your own life as a way to escape from pain and suffering.

  • A suicide attempt is when somone injures themself with the intent to end their life, but does not die.

Key Differences

There are some key differences when talking about self-harm versus a suicide attempt.


Intention: People who self-harm may use do so as a coping method to deal with suicidal thoughts or to release emotional pain. Suicide attempts are often much more severe and are done with the intention to end their life.


Method: People who self-harm typically use less life-threatening methods or engage in risky behaviours as a way to help cope with how they feel. Suicide attempts are often much more severe and can be deadly.


Frequency: Self-harm incidents are usually more frequent and regular, often used as a coping strategy. Suicide attempts may often lead to someone dying by suicide or getting the treatment they need after several attempts.

Causes of Self-Harm

People may engage in self-harming behaviours to cope with stressful and emotional situations such as:

  • Loss of a parent

  • Childhood trauma

  • Neglect

  • Abuse

  • Illness

  • Family history of suicide

  • Mental illnesses

What Are Signs of Self-Harm & Suicide?


Withdrawing or isolating from social circles

Neglecting daily responsibilities and hobbies​

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Fluctuating mood changes

​Easily angered or low mood​

​Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather conditions

​Unexplained cuts or scratches​

What Can I Do To Help?

You may be feeling exhausted or have feelings of losing hope like things will never get better. It is not always easy to reach out and ask for help and can take time before seeing the changes take place. Sometimes, it can take multiple tries and different types of resources before finding the right fit for you. Here are some tips to get started in seeking support:

  • Talk to a person you trust about how you feel

  • Call a crisis line

    • Kids Help Phone

    • Wellness Together Canada

    • SUCCESS Chinese Helpline

    • Hope for Wellness Helping

  • Seek professional support (therapy, counselling) or attend support groups

  • Focus on what you can do right now and make a plan to keep yourself safe

What Can I Do To Help Someone Else?

If you’re worried a family member or friend might be hurting themselves, here are some tips to start the conversation:

  • Ask them how they are doing and point out what changes you have been seeing

  • Find the right place and time to talk to the person. Private and safe spaces are essential to helping the person be more comfortable opening up.

  • Ask them if they have considered suicide or whether they have a plan for it. Doing so will not cause individuals to act on it, especially if they have already been thinking about it.

  • Listen and be non-judgemental of their feelings. Giving unwanted advice or joking about the situation can cause them to be more uncomfortable

  • Do not make promises to keep things a secret. If the individual is in serious danger, call emergency services immediately.

  • Educate yourself and gather resources in the event that the individual is willing to seek support

  • Stay calm and remember to take care of yourself and needs. Supporting others in a hard time can be difficult. Know your limitations and when to seek support when needed.

It is always best to talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you might have. This page should not be used as a resource to self-diagnose. 

Self-Harm & Suicide Infographics & Tip Sheets

Click one of the topics below to download and print our sheets or click here to view more of our infographics. 

Suicide Hotlines

Self-Harm Alternatives

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