CMHA Kootenays honours suicide prevention month
By Erin Knutson
September marks suicide prevention month, and to honour the global campaign, CMHA Kootenays hosted World Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day live on Facebook at their Kootenays Branch Thursday (Sept. 9).
“Our hope for this event is that you find support, education, and help for your loved ones and even yourself,” said CMHA Kootenays Director of Public Services and Crisis Services, Natalie Hake.
Honourable guests, dignitaries, and speakers remembered lives lost and spread the message of hope, courage and touted a call to action from individuals, the mental- health field, and the government in the fight for suicide prevention.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the highest demographic for suicide is from youth and young adults aged 15 to 29. The WHO suggests that numbers are rising, and suicides globally are estimated annually at one million people.
In 2017, 4,157 suicides took place in Canada.
“This makes it the ninth leading cause of death in the country. The main barrier for people getting help is the social stigma associated with suicide,” said Hake.
World Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day originated in 2003 with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). It was then co-sponsored by WHO and the World Federation for Mental Health.
“This year’s theme, creating hope through action, means that we all need to address the issue of suicide prevention collectively through our communities. Whether it is family members, co-workers, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, or elected officials, we need all hands on deck with this crisis,” said Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka (pictured above).
According to Shypitka, the goal is to raise awareness of suicidal behavior, enhance suicide prevention, and work on capacity building for suicide providers to develop sound practices and policies for suicide prevention, “not just in the East Kootenay but throughout the province.
“It’s important to highlight a very vulnerable population that we are losing to suicide, and that is our youth – 75 % of mental illness begins before the age of 25,” he said.
With the arrival of Foundry East Kootenay, which will be hosted by Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society on the horizon, Shypitka emphasized his support for the facility, which will provide health and wellness resource services and supports for young people aged 12 – 24 in the community.
He encouraged people to donate, exemplifying the Not Alone Fundraiser hosted by the East Kootenay Foundation for Health to support the Foundry, which is slated to open its doors next year.
The Foundry requires $1.4 million to finalize its completion and to support operating costs.
“Policymakers and government need to continue to work together to bolster the social safety net and to improve access to mental health care,” said Shypitka.
Several attendees spoke on behalf of lost loved ones or bravely shared their accounts of mental illness.
Mental health advocate and suicide survivor Michelle Evans, who lost her 18-year old daughter Kassy to suicide, shared her story and her family’s struggle as Kassy battled a lengthy fight with mental illness culminating in the teenager’s death. Evan’s campaign is to honour Kassy and to prevent further tragedy.
“If anyone needs help, please reach out – all of our lives matter,” said guest speaker Debbie Patrick.
To donate to the Foundry, visit https://www.ekfh.ca/ .
If you are in crisis or need to talk and for 24-hour help, call:
1-888-353-CARE (2273) for the Crisis Line;
310-6789 for the Mental Health Crisis Line;
or 1-800 Suicide (1-800-784-2433) if you would like information, resources, or support during a suicide-related crisis for suicide-specific concerns.