Sui­cide touches many peo­ple

The Amherst News - - COMMUNITY - Const. Tom Wood Const. Tom Bird is the crime pre­ven­tion of­fi­cer for the Amherst Po­lice De­part­ment.

Po­lice Beat

On Sept. 10, I marked World Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion day with per­sonal con­tem­pla­tion. I think I would be hard pressed to find a per­son who has not been touched by the tragedies sur­round­ing sui­cide.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, each day in Canada 11 peo­ple end their lives and 210 make a sui­cide at­tempt.

Peo­ple who com­mit sui­cide come from all age groups and can be found across the so­cial-eco­nomic spec­trum. This is a sober­ing statis­tic and one that deeply sad­dens me.

The big­gest thing I think we can do for our res­i­dents is to keep the dis­cus­sion about sui­cide at the fore­front. Even today, sui­cide is one of those things that no one wants to talk about in the com­mu­nity.

We all must be watchful for the signs from our fam­ily mem­bers or col­leagues. A lot of peo­ple who want to com­mit sui­cide of­ten feel that no one out there cares for them. Many times they don’t re­al­ize that their death may im­pact hun­dreds to thou­sands of peo­ple. Many peo­ple who take the dark road to­wards sui­cide of­ten are clouded with emo­tions mak­ing them feel that things will not get bet­ter.

Most crises usu­ally do not last for the long term. Fi­nan­cial hard­ships, breakups, job loss are all po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic events in some­one’s life. As time goes on, so­lu­tions are typ­i­cally found to these prob­lems and hap­pier times will come.

I can­not try to imag­ine what some peo­ple are go­ing through, but I do know that peo­ple con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide are very strong in­di­vid­u­als. Sui­cide is not a “weak” char­ac­ter trait. What we all have to fo­cus on is what is im­por­tant in our lives, whether it is fam­ily, friends, re­li­gion etc.

This con­nec­tion to what is im­por­tant to us can help when we are go­ing through hard times.

Sui­ci­dal thoughts should not be left for peo­ple to fig­ure out on their own. If you are feel­ing sui­ci­dal, con­tact some­one who you trust and speak to them.

We also must re­mem­ber that we can­not “fix” some­one. Strug­gles with men­tal health can last a life­time. For fam­ily or friends who sus­pect that a per­son may be sui­ci­dal, look at the warn­ing signs.

If a per­son is talk­ing about death or sui­cide or mak­ing di­rect state­ments that they want to kill them­selves, do not ig­nore it. Sui­ci­dal per­sons may of­ten in­crease sub­stance abuse and have mood changes. They may avoid peo­ple and be quick to anger. Oth­ers may act very list­less and give off a sense of hope­less­ness.

Some signs that some­one may be go­ing from thoughts of sui­cide to an ac­tive plan of sui­cide may be: Giv­ing away pos­ses­sions. Putting af­fairs in or­der sud­denly.

Say­ing good­bye to peo­ple in a way that it sounds like they are leav­ing for a long time.

Ne­glect­ing their care and per­sonal hy­giene.

If a res­i­dent sus­pects that some­one is feel­ing sui­ci­dal. Don’t be afraid to be ob­vi­ous and ask them di­rectly if they are con­tem­plat­ing. You are not plant­ing the seed in some­one’s head if you ask. Most times, peo­ple will feel a sense of re­lief that some­one has ac­knowl­edged the pain that they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

They also may feel val­ued and loved be­cause some­one has put the time and ef­fort to ask them if they are ok. If you are un­com­fort­able in ap­proach­ing some­one and talk­ing about sui­cide, put that per­son in con­tact with some­one who can.

In Nova Sco­tia, we have a men­tal health mo­bile cri­sis team. This is a 24-hour, seven-day a week cri­sis line for all ages who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis. Any­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis can con­tact 902-429-8167 or toll free at 1-888-429-8167.

I can at­test first hand on the cri­sis that we are presently deal­ing with on Men­tal Health. I’ve seen a steady in­crease in men­tal health re­lated calls since my ten­ure as a po­lice of­fi­cer. I don’t see it get­ting any bet­ter and imag­ine that I will con­tinue to see it get worse for at least the short term.

Other re­sources avail­able for res­i­dents in cri­sis is the kids help phone at 416-586-5437. For se­niors, we are for­tu­nate to have a se­nior safety co­or­di­na­tor in our com­mu­nity. Ray Bris­tol can be con­tacted at 902-6677484.

If Ray doesn’t know the an­swer, he will make sure that he’ll get the an­swer from one of his com­mu­nity con­nec­tions. Se­niors can also call the se­nior abuse cri­sis line at 1-877521-1188. Our com­mu­nity also has a sex­ual as­sault out­reach worker, Ni­cole Long, who can be con­tacted at 902-694-7869 and Au­tumn House tran­si­tion house which can be con­tacted at their 24 hour cri­sis line at 902-667-1200. Cum­ber­land Men­tal Health Ser­vices can be con­tacted at 902-667-3879.

Our com­mu­nity is very for­tu­nate to have a coali­tion called CAST. CAST stands for Com­mu­ni­ties Ad­dress­ing Sui­cide To­gether. This com­mit­tee’s goal is to work with the com­mu­nity in build­ing their ca­pac­ity to ad­dress sui­cide. The group has been of­fer­ing safe talk train­ing ses­sions through­out the Cum­ber­land County Area. I do want to ac­knowl­edge the hard and tire­less work that Jan­ice Me­lan­son has done with this com­mit­tee.

Any­one in­ter­ested in join­ing the CAST coali­tion can con­tact me at

Stay safe ev­ery­one.

I met El­don Hay many years ago when my ac­tivism for LGBTQ rights was well un­der­way. I had heard of El­don many times and be­came im­pressed with the hard work he was in­volved with at­tempt­ing to change the plight of Canada’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

El­don Hay left our world on Sept. 17, 2017 in Sackville, N.B., as a re­sult of pan­cre­atic can­cer.

His over­whelm­ing pas­sion for equal rights for all was so sin­cere and his love for hu­mankind be­yond re­proach. He was a con­stant in his en­deav­our to make pos­i­tive change. He was also a sought af­ter speaker and ad­vi­sor and this be­came El­don’s way of con­tribut­ing to the bet­ter­ment of Canada’s LGBTQ cit­i­zens.

He pos­sessed the abil­ity to un­der­stand and not un­duly crit­i­cize, in­stead chose to put a pos­i­tive spin on things.

Those of us who knew El­don were very much aware of the gift he had of touch­ing the lives of those who needed his wise coun­cil, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, re­li­gious back­ground, gen­der iden­tity, or any other unique qual­ity we may pos­sess. Ev­ery­one felt his pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.

Strong of char­ac­ter and de­ter­mined, he marched on the road to equal­ity for all. I know I may speak on be­half of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity who want to ac­knowl­edge their ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his work in our com­mu­nity and his ac­tivism in hu­man rights.

El­don Hay was a re­tired United Church min­is­ter and Pro­fes­sor of Re­li­gion at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity. He was mar­ried with seven chil­dren, in­clud­ing a les­bian daugh­ter and a gay son, re­sult­ing in El­don’s deter­mi­na­tion to tackle the is­sues con­cern­ing equal­ity.

Son Ron, de­scribes his fa­ther as a man of pas­sion, com­pas­sion, prin­ci­ple and love.

“My con­cern about telling him was that he’d go, ‘Yes, I have

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