Raising awareness by acknowledging suicide

Amanda Jess
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Annual Pictou County suicide awareness gathering switching from walk to candlelight event

NEW GLASGOW – Each day in Canada, 11 people will die by suicide. That’s according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, and doesn’t represent how many more will attempt it. 

It’s a statistic that prevention groups want to change.

In the past, the Pictou County Suicide Response Coalition has held a walk to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, but have opted to switch to a candlelight event this year.

“We thought it would be a model of acknowledgement that would be meaningful,” Maureen Jones, manager of community initiatives for mental health services with the Pictou County Health Authority, said.

Jones compares the event to the Relay For Life’s luminaries, where those affected by cancer light a candle in someone’s honour.

On Sept. 10, participants can choose to light a candle in memory of someone they’ve lost to suicide, in honour of someone struggling or recovering, or any other related personal cause.

The local coalition wanted to engage more people in the community who have been impacted by suicide, and they hope this will encourage them.

Ultimately, though, it’s to show the supports available in the area.

“It’s to provide education to the community by showing them the services and supports available.”

It’s meant to show those who could be at risk where they can seek help, as well as to show those close to them how they can help.

Jones says those considering self-harm often show warning signs, and encourages people to watch for them.

There is a false assumption that mentioning suicide to someone will push them towards it, she says.

“Talking about it will increase the likelihood they’ll seek help.”

Media coverage about suicide, especially in high profile cases like the recent death of Robin Williams, can be a double-edged sword, she explains.

It can quickly turn into sensationalism, she says, but it can also provide another opportunity for education.

The informative twilight event begins at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 at Carmichael Park with speakers, including East Hants’ Michelle Singer who will speak about the loss of her brother to suicide.

During the candle lighting, participants can choose to announce why they are lighting it, or may do it silently.

It will go on rain or shine.

 

Warning signs:

- direct and indirect verbal expressions such as “I don’t want to live anyone” or “people would be better off without me”

- dramatic changes in mood

- loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

- agitation

- increase in drug and alcohol use

- risk taking behaviour

- aggressive, impulsive and/or violent acts

- expressions of hopelessness and helplessness

- lack of self care, neglect of self

- changes in eating and sleeping

- withdrawal from family and friends

- giving away prized possession and/or making a will

- reconnecting with old friends and extended family as if to say goodbye

- previous unresolved or recent suicide attempts

 

Info from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

 

Anyone that is experiencing a mental health crisis can call the N.S. Mental Health Crisis Line at 1-888-429-8167.

If you’ve lost someone to suicide, you can contact CAST for a survivors of suicide loss package at 1-902-466-6600.

Organizations: Pictou County Suicide Response Coalition, Pictou County Health Authority, N.S. Mental Health Crisis Line

Geographic location: Pictou County, Carmichael Park, Hants

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