Campaign Spreads Awareness Of Suicide Prevention

Thursday September 15th, 2016

Posted at 11:40am


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As someone commits suicide every 40 seconds, local organizations are shining a light on the issue.

Beginning this past Saturday and continuing through Friday, Suicide Prevention Awareness Week is in full-swing. Partnering up with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU,) the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)has several events planned to engage with the community.

A year in the making, the inaugural campaign has had a lot of help.

“The idea for the week came about after I attended a regional workshop on suicide prevention last September in Chatham with Neil Mackenzie from the Health Unit,” said CMHA’s Karen Gignac. “We already worked together on a WECHU coordinated ‘Working Towards Wellness’ workplace committee. After some discussion we determined that we needed to put together a community wide awareness campaign.”

Those involved include people from health services, workplace and community sectors along with school boards and post-secondary institutions. Choosing World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, an awareness walk and rally was held to kick-off the week: Over 350 people took part in the walk itself.

Organizers are also treating the campaign as a call to action. Using a theme of “you are not alone,” they hope to make the area a suicide-safer community while erasing stigmas surrounding suicide and mental illness.

It’s a message that can be taken two ways.

“That message can mean you are not alone in experiencing a mental health crisis – it can happen to any of us,” said Gignac. “Another very important message from this statement is that help is available. We need to address stigma so people will be less inhibited to seeking help when they need it.”

Elaborating on her point, Gignac said that one myth is that asking someone if they’re suicidal could give them the idea to commit the act. In most cases, it can actually be the first step in keeping them safe.

Another way to protect others is to recognize the causes and signs of suicide. In most cases, feelings of pain, hopelessness and despair can fuel someone’s desire to kill themselves. Usually this can be countered and prevented by showing compassion, caring and a stable support network. Anyone can help to prevent a tragedy from occurring by simply recognizing changes in behaviour.

This includes someone feeling overwhelmed or trapped, saying things like”I wish I were dead,” or “I’m going to end it all.” Even less direct verbal cues such as “”I just can’t take this anymore,” “I’m a burden to my family, they’d be better off without me” or “what’s the point of living?” can be red flags. More general behaviours include someone uncharacteristically isolating themselves at home or in social settings. Giving away possessions, preparing a will and saying goodbye to loved ones are some other indicators.

If you know anyone showing these signs, seek help immediately. While it’s often believed that people threatening suicide don’t mean it, the opposite is true.

“If you are approached by someone in distress or you encounter a friend or loved one who you believe is at risk for suicide, do not leave them alone until you can connect that person to help,” said Gignac. “We have an excellent Community Crisis Centre open 24/7. Call 519-973-4435, or go to the Emergency department of the Ouellette campus of Windsor Regional Hospital (formerly Hôtel-Dieu Grace) or any hospital emergency. If you need immediate response, call 911. Never, ever promise the person you will not tell anyone.”

Several factors put people at risk for suicide. Individual, relational, community and societal issues may all contribute to a situation. Associated with suicide, these characteristics can become direct causes but not always.

This includes a family history of suicide, childhood maltreatment, previous suicide attempts, a history of mental disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, local epidemics of suicide, isolation or a feeling of being cut-off from others, barriers to accessing mental health treatment, relational, social, work or financial loss, physical illness, barriers to easy access of legal methods and an unwillingness to seek help because of stigmas associated with mental health, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

Protective factors can also create a buffer from suicidal thoughts and behaviours however. Things like effective clinical treatment for mental and substance abuse disorders, , physical, easy access to clinical interventions and supports for seeking help, family and community support, ongoing medical and mental health care relationships, skills and problem solving, conflict resolution and non-violent ways of solving disputes, cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide while supporting instincts for self-preservation go a long way.

For those 15 or older, CMHA also recommends learning how to become more comfortable with talking about suicide. This includes seeking out training such as Living Works programs like ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), safeTALK or suicideTALK. These are available through the CMHA and other community groups. Living Works specifically has been a leading provider of suicide intervention training for over 30 years.

Beyond this, having a plan for when a crisis occurs is equally important.

“In addition to seeking more training, knowing who to call before you or someone you love is having a mental health crisis is ideal,” said Gignac. “CMHA has an Information and Referral service open to the public Mon-Fri 8:30 to 4:30. Our phone number is 519-255-7440. If you call CMHA, we will talk with you about your concerns and let you know what is available at CMHA as well as through other community organizations.”

Another resource at CMHA is City Centre Health Care (CCHC.) Providing primary care, health promotion, nutrition, therapy and other health programs, they are open to those living with a mental health diagnosis and needing primary care in downtown Windsor and Essex County. CCHC can be reached at (519) 971-0116.

According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, 4,000 people die from suicide in Canada every year: Breaking down the numbers, that’s an average of almost 11 preventable deaths per day.

Ontario men are killed by suicide more than car accidents and four times more likely than women to successfully commit the act. 73% of suicide-related hospitalizations are for those ages 15-44 — it’s the second highest cause of death for people 15 to 25-years-old. Women are 1.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for attempted suicide, while the highest rate lies with people ages 35-44.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Week will wrap-up with an event held at Place Concorde, located at 7515 Forest Glade Drive on Friday. Hosted by the CMHA, doors open at 6pm for Music For Minds (M4M) in the Oasis lounge. The all-ages event will be hosted by CMHA’s Ashley Vodarek along with guest host Jamie Greer and music from Highland Studios, Border Patrol, Salt Shaker, El Mi Sho & Hombres, Mike O’Phee, Lele Danger Band, Serious Festival, Dave Russell and Brendan Friel.

On sale at the door and online, tickets are by donation. With a suggested price of $10, all proceeds benefit CMHA’s Windsor-Essex County branch. Those looking for more information about M4M can contact Vodarek by e-mail.

For a list of events taking place this week and beyond, people can visit CMHA’s events page.

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