On Monday Sept. 10, London Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council will hold its 13th Annual Lifting the Silence Memorial Walk and Ceremony in honour of World Suicide Prevention Day.
According to StatsCanada in 2009 there were 3,890 suicides in Canada, a rate of 11.5 per 100,000 people. To put that in perspective this would be equivalent to roughly half of the total capacity seating in Budweiser Gardens lost each year to a preventable premature death.
Stats Canada reports “Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. Among those aged 15 to 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death, preceded only by accidents (unintentional injuries). Because they do not generally die from natural causes, suicide represents a relatively large percentage of all deaths for younger age groups (15 to 34).”
These numbers represent parents and children, lovers and friends, companions and co-workers.
They were and still are so much more than this. Deaths by suicide have historically not been reported on in the same way as other deaths, which can leave families already struggling with unimaginable loss suffering from the additional harm of isolation.
That is why events like the annual Lifting the Silence Memorial Walk and Ceremony held at Victoria Park and the work done by the London Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council are so important.
As a community it is important that we honour and acknowledge those lost to suicide, and their loved ones. When I heard about this event I offered to write this piece because I knew how important it was.
Like most people, I have friends who have suffered losses or have struggled with depression.
A local social worker, and mental health advocate working in the field of grief and
bereavement, Cheryl Wituik, suffered the loss of her son to suicide in 2014. Cheryl is a friend and yet I struggled to reach out to her to gain perspective.
I wrote messages to her and erased them for over a week till finally it dawned on me, if I was writing an article about late detection of cancer and recognizing the signs, or any of the myriad of other preventable deaths I wouldn’t have hesitated to contact her.
After coming to this realization I contacted her, requesting a meeting. When I admitted this hesitation to Cheryl she pointed out how that hesitation created a missed opportunity. The silence and stigma attached to mental illness, suicide and the resulting impacts of trauma creates even more isolation and complicates the healing process for those left behind.
Speaking openly allows greater opportunity to grieve in a healthy manner, and opens the door to celebrating the life of the person who died without shame. This is a process often denied to those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide.
This is another reminder of the importance of holding space for those who have suffered loss by taking time to remember and literally lift the silence.
Each time a preventable death occurs, we as a community collectively lose so we must take a look at what we as a community can do. The London Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council website offers training and tips both for people who are having suicidal thoughts and for people who want information in how to assist those around them.
Cheryl stresses that it is important that we, as a community, take it upon ourselves to learn about suicide prevention, to recognize signs that someone may need support and to be the one to reach out when there are concerns.
Don’t put the onus on them to reach out. They may not be able to, given our current societal attitudes, and their own level of suffering, which further complicates the help-seeking process.
As mentioned on the Government of Canada Suicide Prevention Framework page “Suicide
is not necessarily the wish to die but a need to end emotional pain.
People experiencing thoughts of suicide or suicide-related behaviour may feel hopeless or overwhelmed and see no other option. Despite the complexities related to suicide, there is hope. Suicide can be prevented when collective efforts are harnessed to instill hope and healing, raise awareness and promote mental health and well-being.”
When you notice changes in someone’s behaviour whether it be a friend, coworker or a neighbour take the time to check in with them.
You might be the first person to notice their suffering, to not turn away, and to offer hope within the darkness.
The London Suicide Prevention Council offers a number of resources that you can find
here, whether you are looking for help for yourself, experiencing loss or worried about someone in your community.
There is help out there, including the resources listed below:
Resources:National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-833-456-4566
Reachout – http://reachout247.ca/ 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023
Crisis Services Canada http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/