Every year Canada loses 4,000 people to suicide and another 23,000 Canadians are hospitalized in suicide attempts, according to Statistics Canada.
To raise awareness about this problem the Williams Lake Suicide and Sudden Death Committee is organizing a suicide awareness gathering and concert for Sept. 25 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The gathering will start at the Gwen Ringwood Amphitheater in Boitanio Park followed by a walk to Williams Lake Secondary School for the concert in the school commons.
The event will include dedication of a memorial tree and wall, a moment of silence, distribution of information and resources on suicide, personal stories, plus musical performances by local musicians, says Bettina Schoen, chair of the Williams Lake Suicide and Sudden Death team which is co-ordinating the event.
Schoen says the team includes members from a wide variety of local social service agencies including School District 27, Compassionate Care Funeral Services, RCMP, Victim Services, Boys and Girls Club, Axis Family Resources, Cariboo Friendship Society, Canadian Mental Health Association and more.
Schoen says suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada and may even be higher because there is a lot of secrecy kept around the act.
“It is all around us so it is important that we pay attention,” Schoen says.
“Suicide is everyone’s loss,” adds Janice Breck, a counsellor with CMHA.
Schoen says the committee has been working for six or seven years to develop a more co-ordinated response to suicide and bring professionals together in efforts to prevent suicide and co-ordinate resources to support people after a suicide.
She says that especially among youth one suicide can trigger others.
But contrary to popular belief she says it is not true that talking about suicide will cause suicide.
On the contrary she says people need to talk about suicide more and learn the signs that someone may be contemplating suicide.
“The more talking the better,” Schoen says. “Most people who are feeling suicidal don’t want to die. They need to talk about the problem they are facing and know that there is hope and the problem can be solved.”
She says the more a community can talk about suicide the more can be done to provide support for those in distress and preventing suicide.
It doesn’t have to always be professional support.
When suicide does happen she says it is most often when an individual may be facing multiple problems at the same time such as relationship, financial and emotional hurts that converge with no one to talk to about them.
Alcohol or drugs can also heighten the suicide response.
To an onlooker, Schoen says the problem may seem small but to the individual it will seem insurmountable, especially among youth who live more in the moment and may not be able to see that circumstances change with time.
She says most people have times in their lives when they feel depressed and don’t want to live anymore, but they don’t act on the feelings.
The Suicide and Sudden Death Committee members also distribute little yellow cards that people can tuck in their wallet, which provide point-form information on signs of suicide and how a friend or acquaintance can help.
For more information on suicide and its prevention call Schoen at 250-305-4420.