Reach Out and Help Make Suicide a Thing of the Past

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

man-pondering-suicide-on-bridge

Every day in Canada, 11 people end their lives by suicide, 210 others attempt to end their lives, and as many as 110 people are grieving for someone who died by suicide.

Now one of the top ten causes of death in Canada, suicide rates have reach epidemic proportions, particularly among young people and Aboriginal Canadians. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. It is estimated that 90 percent of people who die by suicide were experiencing a mental health problem or illness.

According to a recently released World Health Organization (WHO) report, over 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year. But the report cautions that the number is likely higher than that due to the stigma associated with suicide, lack of reliable death-recording procedures, and religious or legal sanctions against suicide in some countries.

Regardless of the number, one thing is certain – every suicide is a tragic loss of life that has a deep, lasting effect on family members, friends and communities.

Suicide cannot be ignored

As the numbers escalate, there is more and more conversations around the issue of suicide. What can we do to help those who suffer in extreme psychological pain before they take their own lives? How can we support those they leave behind?

A topic still cloaked in fear, shame and silence, suicide simply cannot be swept under the rug. We all have a role to play in preventing it.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). This year’s theme is “Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives”. It’s a day for all Canadians to reach out and do what they can to reduce the number of suicides, and help to make suicide a thing of the past.

How can you reach out?

1. Be a friend

Those who are vulnerable usually suffer in silence. Social connections are extremely important. They need to know they are not alone, that there are people surrounding them who care. If you know someone who is vulnerable or struggling with a mental illness, check in regularly, and listen with an open heart and mind.

2. Take every sign of suicide seriously

They are cries for help. Signs may be hopelessness, a preoccupation with death, self-loathing, saying good-bye, self-destructive behaviour or a sudden sense of calm. If someone you know exhibits these signs, you need to try to find help from a family member, a doctor or a psychologist as soon as possible.

3. Intervene if necessary

Often, professional help is needed. Do what you can to connect vulnerable people to community services that can support them in their time of need. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Go along to doctor’s appointments and support groups.

4. Support friends and family in grief

For those who have lost a loved one, suicide is life shattering. The range of emotions they suffer include grief, anger, guilt and disbelief. Answers are elusive. The pain is unimaginable. There is also the stigma surrounding the death of their loved one, which can make them feel isolated and very alone in their grief. Reach out to those who are grieving due to a death by suicide. Offer sympathy and a non-judgmental ear. Allow them to open up and simply be a shoulder for their pain. It’s a good first step towards healing.

September 10 is an important day in recognizing the devastating impact of suicide and reaching out to prevent it. But the loss of life by suicide doesn’t go by a calendar. People are suffering every day of the year, and they need your help to find their way to a life filled with love and support. Do what you can, and you just may save someone’s life.

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