Sept. 10 is recognized internationally as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).
WSPD is an opportunity for the community to come together to promote understanding about suicide and catalyze changes that prevent suicide and alleviate suffering for those impacted by suicide. This year’s theme, Working Together to Prevent Suicide, is a reminder that we all can play a part in preventing suicide, which is the ninth-leading cause of death in Canada overall and the second-leading cause of death for youth under age 24.
The impact of suicide ripples out to countless individuals, families, groups and communities.
Suicide is complex and, if we’re being honest, it often evokes uncomfortable feelings. It can be difficult to know where to start, so below are simple actions you can take on WSPD and every day to contribute to the cause.
Attend an event in the community. Connecting with others through an awareness event can be a meaningful way to connect with others and raise awareness about suicide. Consider attending a public event for World Suicide Prevention Day in Kamloops on Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at St. Andrews on the Square, downtown at Seymour Street and Second Avenue.
Help raise awareness through social media. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) publishes a toolkit for individuals, groups and communities to use and it includes images and resources that can be shared on social media. Visit the CASP website to download tools to spread the message about WSPD and suicide prevention.
Light a candle by a window at 8 p.m. For the fourth year, people around the world will light candles at 8 p.m. on WSPD as a sign of light in the darkness. The candle shines as a beacon of hope for those who are thinking about suicide, those who are affected by the suicidal thoughts of someone they care about and those who are impacted by suicide loss.
Learn more about suicide and consider the language you use to talk about suicide. Visit the website for the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention or the Mental Health Commission of Canada to learn more about suicide, dispel myths and become familiar with suggested language to use when talking about suicide. For example, the term “committed suicide” comes from a time when suicide was criminalized. The term is considered stigmatizing. We now suggest using terms such as “died from suicide” to reduce stigma.
Donate to suicide-prevention causes. Two years ago, Canada launched its first national crisis hotline, with phone support available 24/7 and text and chat options available for a limited portion of the day. Although the need is incredibly great, Crisis Services Canada continues to struggle with consistent funding to ensure the resource remains available. Consider donating to organizations that support suicide prevention and help those in need.
Reach out to someone who might be struggling. A leading theory of suicide suggests that people often experience suicidal thoughts when two difficult feelings occur at the same time — a sense of disconnection from others and feeling as though they are a burden on people they care about the most. Often, fear prevents us from taking action — fear of not knowing what to say, fear of putting the idea in their head (the research says that this is not true), and fear of not knowing how to respond if someone says they are suicidal.
While bringing it up can be difficult, you can simply start with, “I know you’ve been going through a lot lately. I want you to know I’m concerned about you.”
Many times, being heard and feeling connected can help alleviate feelings of suicidality. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you should be prepared to help find resources and information if needed. Have the resources listed below on hand in case immediate support is needed.
Help someone create a life worth living. It’s not enough to prevent people from dying by suicide. We have to support everyone to create a life worth living. Think about what you can do to create a sense of community and encourage people to get involved in activities that are meaningful and life sustaining.
We often think of suicide as an individual issue and, as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, all you see are nails. When we think of suicide as an individual problem, we think the solution is hospitalization or individual counselling for the person experiencing the crisis.
For some people at the point of a suicidal crisis, these interventions are life-saving and absolutely essential. But there are typically many small moments leading up to a crisis where concerned family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers, teammates and community members can make a difference for people who might be struggling. Suicide is not an individual problem. It’s a social problem, a community problem and one that requires everyone working together.
If this is a difficult day for you or perhaps a reminder of your own struggle with suicidal thoughts or the loss of a loved one, please know you are not alone. Reaching out can be challenging, but finding a community, or even simply another individual, who understands can be life-changing.
World Suicide Prevention Day is a starting point and what we do after that day matters, too. I encourage you to consider what small actions you can take to work together to prevent suicide.
Rebecca Sanford is a clinical social worker, researcher, educator and suicide loss survivor. She works as faculty in the TRU School of Social Work and Human Service and is also the loss
survivor chair on the board of directors for the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
• Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: suicideprevention.ca
• Mental Health Commission of Canada: mentalhealthcommission.ca
• International Association for Suicide Prevention: iasp.info
• For immediate crisis support anywhere in B.C.: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).
• For immediate crisis support anywhere in Canada: 1-833-456-4566.
• For youth anywhere in Canada: 1-800-668-6868. For text support , text CONNECT to 686868. For chat options, go to kidshelpphone.ca.
• Kamloops Suicide Loss Support Group: The group is for anyone impacted by suicide loss. It meets on the second and fourth Monday of every month at Kamloops United Church, at St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue downtown, from 6 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. Call Rebecca at 250-574-7664 for information.