This year, World Suicide Prevention Day (#WSPD) falls on Saturday, September 10, 2022. It hits home for me every year.
Suicide is not just about those who die. It’s about those who survive and those who remain. This is my story…
My dad died by suicide when I was in Grade 7. As an adult, I can see some of the things that made the pain so great for him. As a child, I only knew the loss and abandonment a child feels when their parent is gone forever.
I know my dad was living with undiagnosed mental illnesses—probably bipolar disorder and schizo disorder (on the schizophrenia spectrum). He died because there weren’t supports for him at the time. And that’s why I’m such a passionate advocate for mental health programs, supports, and knowledge.
I remember my dad having times when he just wanted to be left alone—and instead of giving him space, some would whisper about how strange he was. There were big expectations for men to be strong all the time and to never talk about their feelings. There were also stigmas around mental illness (and still are). Some family created a different story about his death, just to avoid any talk of suicide.
In Canada, the suicide rate for men is over three times that of women. That’s been unchanged for years, so it’s clear that we have much work to do to support men who are thinking about suicide. I wish someone had been there for my dad. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I have a close family member who struggles with thoughts of suicide. Here’s what helps (this is not medical advice, just what I’ve seen):
More recently, I had a cousin die by suicide. (For some of you, reading these stories may feel like I’m getting too personal. I believe that sharing our stories is one of the best ways to understand and support each other. It’s OK to talk about suicide and how it’s impacted us.)
My cousin had a very similar story to mine growing up. In high school, she ran away. During this time, Alex and I asked her many times to come live with us.
Eventually, she came and spent about half a year with us. When she moved on, she became pregnant and felt that she had no way out of her situation and from her abusers. The last thing she did before she hung herself was to call someone else and ask for help, but the help didn’t materialize.
I was so sad to learn of this later and know she hadn’t called me. I would have done anything for her. She had come so far, and I was so proud of her.
We’ve made it a strange habit to hide our real emotions and pretend we’re fine when we’re not. If you’re not OK, please reach out. Ask for help.
And if thoughts of suicide are something you don’t really understand, take advantage of all the great resources out there. Learn about suicide, mental illness, and how to support your loved ones and friends.
I’ve been a volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) here in Grande Prairie for over a decade! It’s very rewarding. Wherever you are, there’s probably a CMHA chapter you can connect with. I recommend it.
Suicide prevention is up to all of us. Let’s choose to come together while also reaching out for help when we need it and reaching out to others when they need it.
Saltmedia Inc operates on the traditional territory of Treaty 8 in what is now known as Grande Prairie. We value the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who lived and cared for this land long before Canada was founded, and we recognize that it is a privilege to operate our business here.
Our Prince George site operates on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.
We are grateful to the Elders and Knowledge Keepers who are with us today, and those who’ve gone before us.