Some sobering statistics from the British Columbia, Canada Crisis Centre.
- Over 800,000 people die by suicide every year across the globe (2014 World Health Organization report on suicide prevention)
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29 year olds (2014 World Health Organization report on suicide prevention)
- There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide (2014 World Health Organization report on suicide prevention)
- Approximately 11 people will end their lives by suicide today in Canada and four out of five people who die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt (Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, 2014)
- Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries (Canadian Association of Suicide prevention, 2014)
- Suicide and mental health problems are deeply connected; it is estimated that 90 per cent of people who die by suicide were experiencing a mental health problem or illness (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2014)
- December 2012, parliament enacted legislation to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention. Additionally, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is working to reduce the suicide rate and minimize the harmful consequences of suicidal behavior by facilitating, advocating, supporting and advising (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
- BC’s suicide rates have remained fairly stable, roughly 500 per year (BC Coroners Report, 2014)
- 8% of male students and 17% of female students in BC reported having thoughts of suicide this year (2014 McCreary Centre Society Report on BC Adolescent Health Survey)
- Increasing awareness of suicide through universal education programming is identified as a fundamental component of mental health promotion and suicide prevention (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2013)
As a writer I recognize how powerful words are– spoken or written. They can build a person up or tear them down. Words can soothe and give understanding but so too can they wound and attack.
We’ve come a long way in the prevention of suicide but the levels of anxiety and depression amongst our young people keeps increasing. There are help lines and outreach centers but mental health resources are sometimes scarce and stretched to the limit.
For me the biggest thing is to keep the discussion going. To check in with everyone and make sure they’re hanging on.
With Covid-19 and the forced isolation the need to talk and have more awareness is so important. Kids are just heading back into school and the tension, stress, and anxiety are through the roof.
I’m not saying that every kid is going to run off and jump off a bridge. The idea of opening up a discussion is so that doesn’t happen.
Some will kill themselves leaving a grieving family behind with no answers. We also see celebrity suicides in the likes of Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain just to name a couple. We never know what’s going on in someones mind and it’s imperative to talk, talk, and talk some more.
Suicide is a sensitive subject, one that’s whispered about in parking lots and hallways of schools, but rarely addressed openly (it is starting to become better as more discuss it). People speculate, shake their heads in sadness and helplessness—they don’t know what to do?
Is there protocol for visiting a family who’s child or family member committed suicide? Is it okay to ask what happened? What do you say to the parent, child, or sibling? If anyone has these answers please share them.
No one wants to feel awkward or intrusive but it doesn’t help when the subject is kept in the shadows.
I understand the need for privacy and respect for the family, but a week goes by—then two, and the talk begins to fade and before you know it everyone’s gone on with their busy lives and the loss of a life is forgotten.
A tragic death is left up to speculation and gossip as the shame and stigma of mental illness is once again shoved back into the closet. We need to talk about it because while many squirm and stutter when it comes to talking about mental illness and teen suicide, the truth is that our young people are suffering and, too many are losing the battle.
What is that person’s story? Why should mental illness and/or suicide define the entire life of a young person?
I’m not an expert in mental health but I do know that youth suicide is happening in our community. I also know that if you break an arm, you go the hospital and if you’re diabetic, you take insulin everyday to save your life.
Depression and anxiety are not always talked about openly and kids may try and deal with it themselves as they’ve been told to suck it up and get on with life. Things like self– medicating, substance abuse, cutting, and self harm can occur without anyone being any the wiser, but talking helps. It really does.
Being a kid these days is really difficult. In fact I think it’s much harder than it was in my day. The pressures, both external and internal, that are on students and young people are unbelievable and overwhelming. The constant pressure to be better, to be more, to be something they’re not ready for—is nonstop. The internet and social media is a double edged sword and definitely plays on the minds of our youth. The conversation has started but there’s still a long way to go.
Please don’t become a statistic or leave your family scrambling for answers… Call for help.
Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
Sunshine Coast/Sea to Sky: 1-866-661-3311
Seniors Distress Line: 604-872-1234
Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)
Please, wherever you are, locate the help lines and place the number where it’s easily accessible–You never know when it will be needed.
Keep the conversation going.
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