September 05, 2012

Worldwide events promote suicide prevention

As published in The Erin Advocate

Having a special "day" may not seem like much, in the struggle to keep people from taking their own lives. But when it is an issue that we are afraid to talk about, public discussion is a valuable key that can open up channels of hope and support.

World Suicide Prevention Day will be marked with a brief event in Erin on Monday, September 10, at McMillan Park on Main Street, at 12:30 p.m. It is partly to mourn the many lives lost to suicide, but more importantly to encourage those who are still at risk, and to reduce the stigma that makes it difficult to talk about mental illness and seek help.

I have been asked to share some personal reflections at this event, since Jean and I had ten years of experience in suicide prevention, before losing our son Thomas last May.

"Until it touches somebody's life, they don't realize how common it is," said Kim Bell, Program Lead/Mental Health Worker at the East Wellington Family Health Team, who is helping organize the event.

It is also sponsored by the Suicide Awareness Council (formerly the Suicide Resource Group) of Wellington-Dufferin, which has been in existence since 1999. Its goal is to reduce the incidence of suicide and its impact, through access to credible information, education and resources.

There is valuable information at and at It is also worthwhile to learn about the Collateral Damage Project, at, which promotes training in how to deal with the risk of suicide.

Preventing suicide requires a core partnership that includes the person in distress, the immediate family and health professionals – family doctor, psychiatrist and counsellor.

"It's about asking tough questions, hearing tough answers and taking action," said Bell. She said suicide is rarely an impulsive act, as people normally seek out many other options to alleviate their pain.

"You have to be honest with each other. Asking about suicide does not make it more likely. It gives the person permission to talk about it."

The suicides of almost 4,000 people per year in Canada create a painful reminder that this is a major public health issue, one that affects all walks of life.

“It speaks loudly about the need for the Government of Canada to pay heed to the call from thousands of Canadians, the United Nations and the World Health Organization to establish a national suicide prevention strategy,” said Tim Wall, Executive Director for the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Bill C-300, to create Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention is now before the Senate. It would recognize suicide as a public health issue, provide guidelines, and promote collaboration, knowledge exchange and best practices.

When it was passed in the House of Commons in June, the Bill’s sponsor, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht thanked all MPs for the quality of discussion through all the debates, which remained free of partisanship.

He challenged MPs to keep the conversations on suicide and its prevention alive in their own communities, as Canada remains a long way from breaking the stigma surrounding this issue.