Working together for suicide prevention
World Suicide Prevention Day is a worldwide event recognized annually on September 10.
This day provides an opportunity to spread the message that help, hope, and healing are possible.
In addition, World Suicide Prevention Day presents an opportunity for everyone in the community to join together to promote understanding about suicide.
Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages.
Each day in Canada, it is estimated that 10 people end their life, 250 people make a suicide attempt, while countless others have suicidal thoughts.
Preventing suicide is often possible and you can be a key player in its prevention. Together we can help prevent suicide by promoting help-seeking, addressing stigma, and raising awareness.
Promote help-seeking: Identify the desired helpseeking behaviour such as calling a hotline, visiting a health provider or downloading a mental health app.
Address Stigma: Use personal stories of resilience and recovery – examples of people who sought help and benefitted. Emphasize hope when talking about someone who experienced a suicidal crisis.
Raise Awareness: Identify common warning signs (talking about wanting to die, mood changes, feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless), risk factors (a previous attempt, mental illness, history of trauma or abuse, isolation), and protective factors (strong connections to family and community support, a sense of belonging, strong coping skills).
When talking about suicide, it is important to consider our language.
Here are some tips when talking about suicide:
Avoid using ‘committed suicide’ as this implies a criminal offence.
Try using ‘died by suicide’ which describes the facts. Why? – Simple, non-judgmental language helps reduce stigma surrounding suicide.
Avoid suggesting suicide is inevitable or common, and that it can’t be prevented. Try emphasizing that suicide is preventable and help is available. Why? – We can help prevent suicide by connecting with individuals, talking about suicide and removing barriers to getting help.
Avoid using words or images that reinforce stereotypes, myths or stigmas, such as once someone is suicidal they will always be suicidal or that someone having thoughts of suicide is determined to die.
Try showcasing images of support and hope, and expressing that recovery is possible – use positive examples and promote positive program or service stories. Why? – People can have thoughts of suicide without wanting to die.
Asking and talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts can help someone who is struggling. Avoid suggesting suicide is simple or an individual problem.
Try talking about suicide as a complex issue. Why? – There are many complex factors that contribute to suicide, including individual, social, and environmental factors.
As a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour, there are many things you can do daily, and also on World Suicide Prevention Day to help address stigma around suicide and to raise awareness.
In support of World Suicide Prevention Day, join the Regional Suicide Prevention Council, in partnership with the City of Medicine Hat on Sept. 10 for Rock the Park! Come paint a rock and share a message of hope.
Together we can fill the park with messages that show compassion and care for those in distress in our community! Join us Sept. 10 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Veiner Centre. Supplies are provided and all ages welcome!
Also on Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Regional Suicide Prevention Council, in partnership with Monster’s Ink is hosting a Tattoo Awareness Event.
For more information, visit the SE Alberta Regional Suicide Prevention Council Facebook page.
Taneil Zanidean is an addictions counsellor with Alberta Health Services. She can be reached via e-mail, [email protected]