Guest View: World Suicide Prevention Day an opportunity to promote understanding

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.

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This year’s theme, Working Together to Prevent Suicide, is a reminder 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 those under 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 here are simple actions you can take on WSPD and every day to contribute to the cause.

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 third year, people around the world will light candles 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.

This term is considered stigmatizing. We now suggest using terms such as “died from suicide” to reduce stigma.

Donate to suicide-prevention causes. Last November, 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 great, Crisis Services Canada has not received the funding necessary to continue the text and chat options.

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 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 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.”

You don’t need all of the answers, but you should be prepared to help find resources and information if required.

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 also matters. I encourage you to consider what small actions you can take to work together to prevent suicide.

For immediate crisis support anywhere in B.C., call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). For a list of more resources, go online to, click on the Opinion tab and click on this column.

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. Sanford also facilitates a support group in Kamloops for those impacted by suicide loss.

More resources:

  • Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention:
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada:
  • International Association for Suicide Prevention:

Find support:

  • 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: visit
  • Kamloops Suicide Loss Support Group: for anyone impacted by suicide loss; 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 7:30 p.m. Contact Rebecca by email at or by phone at 250-574-7664 for more information.
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