A time to pause/re­flect on men­tal health, sui­cide pre­ven­tion in Swift Cur­rent

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­[email protected]­t.com

An event is tak­ing place in Swift Cur­rent to cre­ate aware­ness about sui­cide pre­ven­tion.

World Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Day is held an­nu­ally on Sept. 10 to get peo­ple around the world talk­ing about sui­cide and ways to save lives.

The Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion (CMHA) Swift Cur­rent branch is part­ner­ing with a lo­cal busi­ness, High En­ergy Tat­too, to hold a semi­colon tat­too event on this day.

“We fig­ured it’s a good time to shed some light on the topic of sui­cide,” CMHA Swift Cur­rent Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jac­qui Wil­liams said. “We know of other or­ga­ni­za­tions who have used this semi­colon project to raise aware­ness not only about sui­cide, but also about men­tal health, and we thought that was a re­ally good fit for us.”

Project Semi­colon is an Amer­i­can non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that was started by Amy Bleuel in Wis­con­sin in 2013 as a trib­ute to her fa­ther, who died by sui­cide. Her ad­vo­cacy was in­spired by her own strug­gle with men­tal illness and the stig­mas as­so­ci­ated with it.

“She had asked peo­ple to draw a semi­colon on their arm, just with a pen, to high­light sui­cide aware­ness,” Wil­liams ex­plained. “Her state­ment was al­ways that when an au­thor writes the sen­tence, they could choose to end the sen­tence or they can do a semi­colon and the sen­tence goes on, and your life is a sen­tence. It’s your choice, you’re the au­thor, to have your life con­tinue. So that is the sig­nif­i­cance of the semi­colon.”

Bleuel died by sui­cide in 2017, but the work of her foun­da­tion con­tin­ues and the semi­colon has be­come a sym­bol of hope.

“She raised so much aware­ness around not only is­sues of sui­cide, but also men­tal health strug­gles,” Wil­liams said. “So it is a real nice way for us to do it to high­light that. A lot of peo­ple will choose to get the semi­colon tat­too maybe to draw at­ten­tion to their own strug­gle or it could be in sup­port of some­one that they love and care about.”

Those who want to par­tic­i­pate in the CMHA semi­colon tat­too event will have a choice be­tween a per­ma­nent tat­too, which will be drawn by the artists of High En­ergy Tat­too, or a tem­po­rary tat­too by henna tat­too artist Surbhi Kalsi.

“So peo­ple can get a semi­colon based tat­too that would then last up to a month,” Wil­liams said. “It gives them the op­por­tu­nity to have the con­ver­sa­tions around sui­cide and men­tal health, but not the per­ma­nency of a true tat­too.”

A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from the semi­colon tat­too event will be do­nated to CMHA Swift Cur­rent. High En­ergy Tat­too will also con­tinue the pro­mo­tion through­out Septem­ber and 30 per cent of all men­tal health themed tat­toos will be do­nated to CMHA at the end of the month.

CMHA Swift Cur­rent is a lo­cally gov­erned, non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides sup­ports to peo­ple who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing men­tal illness and their fam­i­lies. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams the semi­colon tat­too event will hope­fully help to get peo­ple to talk about sui­cide pre­ven­tion.

“Peo­ple do shy away from it,” she said. “It’s a ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion to be in, if some­one dis­closes that they’re suicidal, be­cause it’s such a se­ri­ous is­sue, but all the facts point us to talk­ing about it is the way to help. If peo­ple are open and dis­close that they’re suicidal or hav­ing suicidal thoughts, it gives them and you the op­por­tu­nity to work to­wards re­solv­ing is­sues.” An in­creased aware­ness can help peo­ple to be more aware of the signs that some­one might be strug­gling with suicidal is­sues. Talk­ing about sui­cide will not cause sui­cide, and the first step to­wards help­ing some­one with suicidal thoughts is to lis­ten to them in a re­spect­ful and com­pas­sion­ate way, and to sup­port them to find help.

“Once you know or won­der if some­one is suicidal, you ask di­rectly if some­one is hav­ing thoughts about sui­cide,” she said. “You try to con­tract with that per­son not to harm them­selves, and you try to get them the ap­pro­pri­ate help. … Talk­ing is ba­si­cally the key, even though it can be quite scary. It feels like a big re­spon­si­bil­ity, but it is a way to help peo­ple who are strug­gling and in the end the talk­ing might make the dif­fer­ence to some­one.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, sui­cide is the ninth lead­ing cause of death in Canada. Each day there will be 10 Cana­di­ans who will end their lives by sui­cide and up to 200 oth­ers will make an at­tempt. Seven to 10 peo­ple will be pro­foundly af­fected by each sui­cide death. There were 3,926 sui­cides in Canada in 2016 and in 2015 nearly four mil­lion Cana­di­ans aged 12 and over had suicidal thoughts.

Males are three times more likely to die by sui­cide than fe­males, but fe­males are three times more likely to at­tempt to end their lives. Women are hos­pi­tal­ized 1.5 times more of­ten than men for sui­cide re­lated be­hav­iours. Data from the Cana­dian Com­mu­nity Health Sur­vey in­di­cated that 14.7 per cent of Cana­di­ans have thought about sui­cide and 3.5 per cent have at­tempted sui­cide in their life­time. Suicidal thoughts are usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with prob­lems that can be treated, and prob­lems are sel­dom as se­ri­ous as they might ap­pear to be at first. It is there­fore im­por­tant not to keep suicidal thoughts to your­self, but to talk to some­one about it.

“They have to find some­one they trust and they have to tell that per­son what they’re think­ing, and then they’ll have a prob­lem that’s shared in­stead of a prob­lem that’s just their own,” Wil­liams said. “Some peo­ple are for­tu­nate. They have lots of peo­ple that they trust and that they care about who are able to help them. Oth­ers have smaller groups that are not quite so able to take on th­ese con­ver­sa­tions and th­ese dis­cus­sions, but that’s when help lines and the in­ter­net and those places can be very help­ful. If you call a sui­cide hotline or even the health num­ber, they will help you get to the peo­ple that you need to help you with any men­tal health is­sue that you’re deal­ing with.”

The semi­colon tat­too event on Sept. 10 takes place at High En­ergy Tat­too, which is lo­cated in down­town Swift Cur­rent at 110 Cen­tral Ave North, suite 203, Shanti Place, across the street from Sput­ter­gotch. They will be open from 12-7 p.m. and walk ins start at 2 p.m., all first come, first serve. Any­one who wants to sched­ule an ap­point­ment for a men­tal health themed tat­too on this day or any other day dur­ing Septem­ber must con­tact High En­ergy Tat­too through their Face­book page or by call­ing 306-741-1996. Any­one who wants to sched­ule an ap­point­ment for a henna tat­too on Sept. 10 must call CMHA Swift Cur­rent at 306-7782440.

CMHA Swift Cur­rent board mem­bers will be present at the event and in­for­ma­tion will be pro­vided about sui­cide pre­ven­tion. Board Pres­i­dent Lyn­d­saye Greke has cre­ated a paint­ing based on the semi­colon theme, and those who par­tic­i­pate in the event on Sept. 10 will be en­tered into a draw to win this art piece.

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