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Red Deer College

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Counselling Services

Counselling services and supports are inclusive, confidential, and available to all RDC students free of charge.

Depression & Suicide

Changes in mood are a normal part of the human condition. That being said, when feelings of sadness become sever for prolonged time period and significantly affect daily functioning, it becomes a problem. Depression, also known as clinical or major depression, is a mood disorder that will affect one in eight Canadians at some point in their lives. It changes the way people feel, leaving them with mental and physical symptoms for long periods of time. It can look quite different from person to person.  

Depression can be triggered by a life event such as the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, or other life stresses like a major deadline, moving to a new city. or having a baby. However, sometimes it seems not to be triggered by anything at all. One of the most important things to remember about depression is that people who have it can't just "snap out of it" or make it go away. It's a real illness, and the leading cause of suicide (Help Guide, 2019).

 

Common symptoms of depression
If you agree with five or more of these statements and have been experiencing them for more than two weeks you should talk to your doctor: 
  • I feel worthless, helpless, or hopeless 
  • I sleep more or less than usual 
  • I'm eating more or less than usual 
  • I'm having difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  • I've lost interest in activities I used to enjoy 
  • I have less desire for sex 
  • I avoid other people 
  • I have overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief 
  • I'm feeling unreasonably guilty 
  • I have a lot of unexplained stomachaches and headaches 
  • I feel very tired and/or restless 
  • I have thoughts of death or suicide 
  • I’m feeling more tearful or irritable than usual 
 
Depression is very treatable. Some common treatments, used on their own or in combination are: 
  • Counselling 
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Includes breaking the negative patterns of depression including the thoughts and actions that can keep the depression going. 
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): Includes learning skills to improve how you interact with other people. 
  • Medication 
  • Light Therapy: Involves sitting near a special king of light for roughly thirty minutes a day. This treatment has been proven effective for people with seasonal affective disorder. 
  • Self-help: Regular exercise, eating well, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality, and monitoring your use of alcohol and other substances can help keep depression from getting worse or coming back. 

Helpful Resources

 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Skills Workbook

This workbook will provide insight into depression, low mood, and anxiety and how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you cope. 

 Informed Choices About Depression

A website with information about depression, as well as treatment and coping mechanisms. 

 Tips for Preventing Relapse of Depression

A toolkit with information and worksheets to put in place strategies to cope with relapse of depression and low mood. 

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. This can mean things such as moving away from home, loss of a friendship or relationship, your parents divorcing, the death of a family member, friend, or pet. 

Grief is often said to occur in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, many other stage models have been developed with as many as ten stages. Since not all people go through the same stages, or in the same order, and many people cycle back through these stages over time, it's helpful to focus on grieving as having common feelings, reactions, and symptoms (Help Guide, 2019). These include:

  • Emotional reactions: Shock, fear, disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, numbness, yearning, apathy, emptiness, resentment, helplessness, relief, etc. 
  • Physiological/Cognitive reactions: Confusion, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, irrational thinking, hyperactivity, sense of unreality, obsession with the decreased, sense of loss of purse, dreams or nightmares, illusions, etc. 
  • Physical reactions: Insomnia/oversleeping, tightness in thought, sharking, loss of appetite/overeating, pain in different body parts, nausea, fatigue, panic attacks, etc. 
  • Social reactions: Loneliness, sense of detachment from others, feeling abandoned, need to be alone, easily irritated by others, loss of interest in daily social activities, not wanting to return to work or school, etc.  
  • Spiritual reactions: Anger, loss of faith, connection with nature/sense of something larger than ourselves, greater connection with religion, etc. 

Coping with grief during the holidays

 

Tips for Coping with Grief 

  • Understand that not everyone will know how to help you. 
  • Take responsibility for your recovery. 
  • Accept that your life will likely change. 
  • Identify any myths you hold about grieving. 
  • Talk about how you feel.
  • Develop a line graph of your significant loss experiences.  
  • Write your loved one a letter.
  • Participate in grief rituals. 
  • Find comfort in your spiritual/religious practices. 
  • Focus your energy on self-care activities. 
  • Reduce some of your expectations for yourself. 
  • Hold off on making major life decisions or changes. 
  • Allow yourself any potential happiness. 
  • Honour your loved one in some creative or meaningful way.
  • Spend some time on your own if you need it. 
  • Be patient with yourself. 
  • Join a support group. 
  • Seek professional help, such as a counsellor. 

Helpful Resources

 Coping with Grief & Loss 

This handout includes tips of healthy ways to manage the grieving process.

 What's Your Grief?

A website with tools, resources, articles, and webinars related to grief. 

Although most individuals protect themselves from pain and injury, some people hurt themselves on purpose to help them manage bad feelings or thoughts. People who self-harm don’t do it to end their life—instead, self-harm may be the best way they know to cope (Here To Help, 2016).  

The cycle of self-harm.

 

People may self-harm for a variety of reasons, such as: 

  • To deal with uncomfortable or unwanted feelings like anxiety or depression 
  • To cope with grief, loss, violence or chronic illness 
  • To punish themselves or to express self-hatred or self-anger, or feelings of failure 
  • To make their emotional pain feel like physical pain 
  • To  feel “real”, feel anything or to cope with feelings of emptiness or numbness 
  • To regain control over their body 
  • To just feel better
 

Warning signs that someone may be self-harming: 

  • They often have unexplainable wounds like cuts, burns, or bruises 
  • They have many unexplainable scars 
  • They often say that they’re “accident-prone” or have many accidents 
  • They cover their body, even during warm weather 
 

How to help someone who is self-harming: 

  • Educate yourself about self-harm 
  • Avoid anger and judgment. The individual isn’t trying to hurt you, make you feel guilty, or get attention 
  • Focus on the individuals concerns or issues, not the act of self-harm 
  • Encourage positive, healthy coping methods. It takes time to learn the positive coping skills that can replace harmful coping skills. Don’t demand that your loved one stop self-harming immediately 
  • Let your loved one know that you’re willing to listen, but don’t force them to talk 
  • Encourage your loved one to seek professional help 

 

Tips to stop self-harm for yourself: 

Confide in someone. 

It can be scary to talk about the very thing you have worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of your secret and share what you’re going through. Do this by focusing on your feelings rather than sharing details about your self-harm behaviours, communicate in whatever way you feel most comfortable, and give the person time to process what you tell them.  

Identify your self-harm or cutting triggers. 

Understanding what triggers you to cut or self-harm is a vital step towards recovery. If you can figure out what function your self-injury serves, you can learn other ways to get those needs met-which in turn can reduce your desire to hurt yourself. 

The idea of paying attention to your feelings-rather than numbing them or releasing them through self-harm-may sound frightening to you. You may be afraid that you’ll get overwhelmed or be stuck with the pain. But the truth is that emotions quickly come and go if you let them. 

Find new coping techniques. 

Self-harm is your way of dealing with unpleasant feelings and difficult situations. If you’re going to stop, you need to have alternative ways of coping so you can respond differently when you feel like cutting or hurting yourself. 

Self-Harm strategies

If you self-harm to express pain and intense emotions, you could: 

  • Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint 
  • Start a journal in which to express your feelings 
  • Compose a poem or song to say what you feel 
  • Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up 
  • Listen to music that expresses what you’re feeling 

If you self-harm to calm and soothe yourself, you could: 

  • Take a bath or hot shower 
  • Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat 
  • Wrap yourself in a warm blanket 
  • Massage your neck, hands, and feet 
  • Listen to calming music 

If you self-harm because you feel disconnected or numb, you could: 

  • Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm) 
  • Take a cold shower 
  • Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg 
  • Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel 
  • Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board 

If you self-harm to release tension or vent anger, you could: 

  • Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag 
  • Punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow 
  • Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay 
  • Rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine) 
  • Make some noise (play an instrument, bang on pots and pans) 

Other substitutes for the cutting sensation: 

  • Use a red marker pen to draw on your skin where you might usually cut. 
  • Rub ice cubes over your skin where you might usually cut. 
  • Place rubber bands on your wrists, arms, or legs, and snap them instead of cutting. 

Helpful Resources

 Alternative Coping Mechanisms

A list of alternative coping mechanisms to help reduce or avoid self-harming when feeling a variety of different emotions.

 Distraction Techniques & Alternative Coping Strategies

If you struggle with self-injury, this handout will help you identify negative feelings and situation related to self-injury, as well as provide alternative coping mechanisms.

Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death. It is a self-inflected, intentional injury taken to escape negative feelings and end pain. While the link between suicide and mental health problems, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis (Mind Your Mind, 2020).

  • Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death among individuals aged 15 to 34 years old.
  • For every completed suicide, there are 100-200 suicide attempts. 31-51% of individuals who attempt suicide will re-attempt.
  • While women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men, men are three times more likely to die by suicide. 
  • LBGTQ+ individuals are 4X more likely to attempt suicide than their cis-gendered peers.
  • Aboriginal individuals are 4X more likely to die by suicide.​

Every year, more Albertan's die by suicide than the number of people who die in motor vehicle.


Warning Signs of Suicide

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Ideation: Thinking about suicide
Substance use: Problems with alcohol or other substances

Purposelessness: Feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living
Anxiety: Feeling intense anxiety or feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
Trapped: Feeling trapped or feeling like there is no way out of a situation
Hopelessness or Helplessness: Feeling no hope for the future, feeling like things will never get better

Withdrawal: Avoiding family, friends, or activities
Anger: Feeling unreasonable anger
Recklessness: Engaging in risky or harmful activities normally avoided
Mood change: A significant change in mood (CMHA, 2020)

 

 


Helping Myself with Suicidal Ideation

Thoughts of suicide are distressing. It’s important to talk about your experiences with your doctor, mental health care team, or any other person you trust. They can help you learn skills to cope and connect you to useful groups or resources (Mind Your Mind, 2020).

Other things to try include:

  • Call a crisis telephone support line.
  • Get involved in a self-help group and talk to people who have "been there".
  • Understand that you are not in the best shape to make major decisions, so just focus on the here and now.

Helping A Friend with Suicidal Ideation 

  • Find a place to talk where the person feels comfortable, they need to know that you respect their need for privacy.
  • Encourage the individual to express their feelings freely – the single most important thing you can do is to listen attentively without judgment.
  • Ask them whether they have considered suicide – bringing up the subject will not cause them to act upon it.
  • When someone tells you they are going to attempt suicide, it can be scary for both you and them. Stay calm, be honest and tell them about your concern for them – they need to know that someone cares.
  • Ask them what you or someone else can do to keep them safe and help them through this.
  • Talk about the resources that can support them – family, friends, clergy, counselling or psychiatric treatment.
  • Let them know that you are there to support them, but also know your limits – you don't have to do it alone. Taking care of yourself while helping a friend through a hard time is important.

Suicide HotlineHelpful Resources

 Suicide Prevention

Learn how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how you can help those at risk. 

 Toolkit for Those Impacted by a Suicide Attempt

A toolkit from the Mental Health Commission of Canada that can help you manage crisis situations that may have impacted you.

 Toolkit for Those Impacted by a Suicide Loss

A toolkit from the Mental Health Commission of Canada that help with managing and understanding the grief of suicide. 

Crisis Services Canada

1-800-456-4566 | Text 45645

Get 24/7 support. 


Depression Hurts

Resources an individual may find helpful when it comes to understanding depression and anxiety or helping a loved one on the road to recovery. Provides information in English, French, Chinese and Punjabi.


Kids Help Phone

1-800-668-6868 | Text CONNECT to 686868

Get 24/7 national support for young people in Canada.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

Get 24/7, free, and confidential support if in distress.

 

Suicide Information Services 

A non-profit organization in Red Deer that offers information, education, and referral services.