Lighting Torches

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. The World Health Organization has recently released a report on suicide prevention. The figures are staggering. More than 800,000 people take their own lives every year. Somewhere a person dies of suicide every 40 seconds.

Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness

Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” ― Whoopi Goldberg

As a School Trustee for School District 23, I was invited to the Town Hall meeting, co-hosted by MPs Ron Cannan and Dan Albas, on September 8, at the Parkinson Recreation Centre. This meeting focused on suicide and suicide prevention in the region. Our meeting was one of many hosted nationally by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

I heard about the local concerns and joined the conversation regarding suicide prevention in the school context. I was also there to share my story.

I spoke about the impact of my son’s death to his family, his friends and the community as a whole. We all reacted and responded to the loss. Since my son took his own life, he lost his future. He lost the opportunity to recover from his depression, to grow up and to grow old.

Although very emotional, here is some of what I said:

Today I am not here to mourn Alex’s death, I’m here to celebrate his life. Celebrate the wonderful 18 years I was so privileged to share with my son. Because as I celebrate his life, I become fearless in speaking about his death. I can bring the shadow of suicide in to the light of love. I can encourage others to join me. Together we can hold each other up, support one another and become healing light workers to others struggling with their own shadow. Let us all truly believe we are our brother’s keeper.

There were other parents who spoke from personal experience, as well. We heard from the parents that are still struggling to get their children help. And we heard from the parents that tried but were unable to save their children.

The MC for the meeting was Phil Johnson, of AM1150, and he will be giving the highlights from the meeting to a larger audience on World Suicide Prevention Day. The MPs will also be submitting a synopsis of the ideas shared in our meeting to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Our ideas, experiences and recommendations will be included in that organization’s planned report based upon all of the MP-hosted meetings.

We are starting a solution-based conversation. It is the sincere hope of the Okanagan Suicide Awareness Society that this event will increase community awareness. There is a huge impact suicide has in every community.

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We want to prevent tragedies that are occurring at an alarming rate. We want to save lives. Our goal is to begin with the person who seems to be considering suicide.

There is still so much stigma about mental health issues. Young people often don’t admit that they feel suicidal. People are ashamed to talk about it. Too often, those that need the help don’t get it. Or those that want the help can’t find it.
The terrible thing is that guilt and shame feed the depression. Too many children who feel suicidal still carry the burden of thinking that it’s “their fault”. Too many young adults with depression aren’t finding the resources to help them recover.

When someone understands that there may be an underlying cause of their symptoms, they often feel a tremendous sense of relief. When they start to believe, that it can get better they start to experience hope.

When a young person begins to come to terms with depression and suicidal impulses and seeks treatment, there is often a dramatic improvement. But we still need more treatment options and better ways to reach out to the families that are experiencing so much pain.

It truly is through education, awareness, and understanding that a bridge can be built to gap the divide between resources and the individual. In order to build this structure we need funding. Money for local treatment options….money to inform and educate the public…money to save lives.

Instead of suffering in silence and feeling helpless, we need to spread the certain knowledge that there is hope. We need to build a bridge for the despondent and those that feel that they want to die. It is our dream that this effort will begin to “light a torch” that will help those living in the darkness of depression to find their way out.

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