Statistics gathered by the Williams Lake Suicide and Sudden Death Committee indicate that there are five to 10 suicides in the Williams Lake area every year and at least that many attempts.
The statistics have been gathered from the RCMP and Coroner Services. In 2013 coroner files for Williams Lake showed eight suicides and another possible one.
Community support workers estimate the number is much higher because not all suicides are recorded as such.
“Many suicides are officially counted as deaths caused by accidents or drug overdose, as there is no proof that individuals intended to end their life,” says committee chair Bettina Egert. “And family members often chose not to tell, for example out of fear being labelled and blamed.”
For every suicide, seven to 10 people are directly affected by the loss of that individual, Egert says.
High school students and young adults are of particular concern for counsellors and support workers which is why the committee is hosting an in-school workshop for 200 students today at Lake City Secondary’s Williams Lake campus.
In any given year it is estimated that one in five people is depressed and that one in three people will experience a mental health problem.
The 2014 World Health Organization report on suicide prevention indicates that 800,000 people around the world die by suicide each year, 500 per year in B.C. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world among 15 to 29 year olds. Eight per cent of male students and 17 per cent of female students in B.C. reported having thoughts of suicide, says the 2014 McCreary Centre Society Report on BC Adolescent Health Survey.
“Community practitioners would be able to share numerous stories about cases of suicidal ideation where suicide was prevented due to intervention by professionals, family, friends and peers,” Egert says. “In many cases it only takes that one person to pay attention, listen and support.”
These statistics are the reason that representatives from the various helping organizations in Williams Lake came together several years ago to form the Suicide and Sudden Death Committee.
One of the committee’s first initiatives was to develop a protocol for community services and organizations to work together to effectively communicate and collaborate in cases of suicidal ideation and death by suicide to provide assistance to individuals and families.
Counsellor Janice Breck says the protocol binder includes a detailed response plan in cases of suicide, to prevent further fallout, such as more suicides and post traumatic stress and outlines support for those affected.
The Williams Lake and Area Area Suicide/Sudden Death Postvention Protocol has been so successful that some other communities have adopted it.