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  • Mad Maid

Preventing Suicide: What Actually Helps

Updated: Jan 21

This post is a transcript from Mad Maid Season 1 Episode 4 on Preventing Suicide: What Actually Helps


Mad Maid here, hello!


Mad Maid is a feminist mental health podcast run by yours truly: Michelle Pugle, freelance journalist, author, and suicide prevention speaker.


What started as an intro episode about medical gaslighting in the mental health community has since developed into the first season of Mad Maid where I bring you seven episodes surrounding the topic of suicidal ideation and suicide prevention.


So in this episode, I want to talk about what actually helps when it comes to preventing suicide in our communities.


One way to help prevent suicide in our communities is via a concept called protective factors.


Protective Factors


Suicide risk is often calculated based on risk factors versus protective factors or how the two intersect.


What’s a protective factor?

A protective factor is any factor that can help reduce risk of suicide. The following factors are proven to reduce risk of suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Protective factors can be categorized as individual, relationship, or community, or society-based.


Individual protective factors


Individual Protective Factors are personal factors that help protect against suicide risk.

They include things we can develop or introduce to our lives if we don’t already have them. Examples include:

  • Effective coping and problem-solving skills

  • Reasons for living (for example, family, friends, pets, etc.)

  • Strong sense of cultural identity

Relationship protective factors


Relationship Protective Factors are essentially healthy relationship experiences that protect against suicide risk including having:

  • Support from partners, friends, and family, and

  • Feeling connected to others

Community protective factors


Community Protective Factors are supportive, nurturing, and empowering community experiences that protect against suicide risk. They include:

  • Feeling connected to school, community, and other social institutions

  • Availability of consistent and high quality physical and behavioral healthcare (in turn, the opposite of this, which is what we are currently experiencing in Canada, are barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance use treatment which can cost thousands per month out of pocket)

Societal or protective factors


Societal Protective Factors are sociological factors or cultural and environmental factors within the larger society that protect against suicide risk.


The two major protective factors against suicide from a sociological standpoint may be having:

  • Reduced access to lethal means of suicide among people at risk

  • Cultural, religious, or moral objections to suicide

These can also be considered environmental factors.


Experts say, “environmental factors that cause risk include easy access to the highly lethal means of suicide and protective factors mean easy access to help and treatment services.”


Suicide Risk Safety Plan for Families: https://www.bethe1to.com/safety-plan/

On religion's role (the good and the reality)


Organized religion or religious-based organizations can also help reduce risk of suicide in communities in the following ways:

  • Religion offers people some answers to existential crisis questions

  • Religion provides community based on shared morals and beliefs (inclusion and belonging)

  • Religion provides purpose, structure, tradition, and ritual

Religion doesn’t exist free from health stigmas, though. There’s still ongoing stigma associated with mental health help-seeking and with mental illness diagnoses across different cultures and religions.


Experts even say certain cultural and religious beliefs - for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma - can be risk factors for suicide.


So, it’s not as simple as saying more religion would equal less suicide…


Before ending the episode, I also want to highlight some risk factors to watch for. These are known to precede suicidal behaviour and contribute to risk.


Environmental Risk Factors

  • Job or financial loss

  • Relational or social loss

  • Easy access to lethal means

  • Local clusters of suicide that have a contagious influence

  • Stigma associated with help-seeking behavior

  • Certain cultural and religious beliefs - for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma

  • Exposure to the influence of others who have died by suicide, including media exposure

Socio-Cultural Risk Factors

  • Stigma associated with help-seeking behavior

  • Barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment

  • Exposure to the influence of others who have died by suicide, including media exposure

Still to Come this Season


In the next episode dropping next Monday, I’ll be exploring what Canadian mental health organizations and suicide prevention organizations are saying about the upcoming inclusion tot MAiD (medical assistance in dying) and how MAiD works to reduce social protective factors for Canadians concerned about suicide in their own families.

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