CMHA hosting annual suicide prevention event
By Erin Knutson
The Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kootenays annually supports World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) in solidarity with many organizations and supporters.
It will be hosting its Annual Suicide Prevention Event online this year, Thursday, Sept. 10.
“We are passionate about this topic and continuing to keep an ongoing conversation with the many mental health programs and events we offer in our communities,” said CMHA Kootenays Administrator of Crisis Services and Volunteer Services, Natalie Hake.
The event is an opportunity for the community to connect on a deeper level while promoting an understanding of suicide.
“We support suicide awareness at a local level by maintaining healthy relationships with our community and our partners,” said Hake.
Part of the event is storytelling.
Members of the community have the unique opportunity to speak out about suicide by telling their personal stories.
According to Hake, people feel a sense of connectedness around the issue by sharing experiences, which reduces the stigma associated with suicide.
Two speakers from Cranbrook will be featured this year, following an opening speech by Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka.
“We are very grateful when our community members step up to share their stories,” said Hake.
CMHA Kootenays hosted their annual WSPD event last year in Rotary Park, and it met with great success.
“The incredible turnout showed just how much our community is concerned and cares about others’ well-being,” said Hake.
The storytelling aspect created a platform for speakers to engage with audiences in a safe and receptive setting.
“During and after our event at Rotary Park last year, attendees said they related to some of our speakers’ experiences. It allowed them to gain access to resources and to take away a feeling of hope,” she said.
Since March, calls to the Crisis Line have increased with the pandemic’s arrival. Community members have been calling to ask how they can volunteer and to offer support relating to the crisis.
“We have especially noticed an unprecedented increase and intensity in call volume within our community due to COVID-19,” said Hake.
Suicide has seen a dramatic rise in recent years, long before COVID-19. Organizations like the World Health Organization, International Association for Suicide Prevention, World Federation for Mental Health, and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention have teamed up on various WSPD events and suicide reduction initiatives.
Suicide remains a closeted topic for fear of recrimination and stigma, increasing individuals’ likelihood of dying by suicide, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
The CMHA Kootenays offers a host of suicide prevention courses, including ASIST, safeTalk, and Mental Health First Aid Basic, to educate the public on safety within the workplace and at home.
“We have lost too many people to suicide, and this is not acceptable. Collectively, we must continue our efforts to keep the conversation going,” said Hake.
The Annual Suicide Prevention Day Event will be hosted online via live stream from the CMHA Kootenays Facebook page Thursday, Sept. 10.
There will be a slide show starting at 6:45 p.m. MST, and the main event will begin at 7 p.m. Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Interior Crisis Line Network at 1-888-353-2273 or 1-800-SUICIDE.