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Suicide: An Unnecessary Loss of a Precious Life

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   By: Justin S. N. Boodhoo

   2014-10-15 10:12 PM

Hook. A movie I loved as a kid, with an actor who always had a way of making me smile. I think about myself as a father now, and recently watching this movie with my son asking who peter pan was, and who Robin Williams is. Unfortunately, our next conversation about the actor will be about who he was. On August 11, 2014, the world was shocked at the apparent suicide of an actor beloved by so many. Robin Williams had clearly made an impact on this world not just as an actor, but also as a person who cared about many, and who in turn was cared about by countless around the world. The death of Robin Williams will have an impact on the movie business for a significant period of time, but also, his death has placed a spotlight on the topic of suicide.

 Suicide is a very real and serious issue. Statistics Canada shows a total of 3728 total suicides in 2003, 2781 of those being males, with the age range of 50 to 54 having the highest numbers of suicide. Although those numbers are extremely high, there is still much stigma around the topic of suicide, with assumptions being made continuously about who is at the highest risk. If Robin Williams’s death has taught us anything, it should be that anyone could be at risk of suicide. Although suicide does occur, it is also preventable. In life we face our ups and downs, but some people may struggle in dealing with these things. The build up of these various factors if not addressed puts a person a greater risk of mental health issues, addiction, and even suicide. As a mental health professional, I work daily to support people getting the information they need to access services and supports to assist them in their struggles with mental health and addiction. Giving people the information they need, when they need it is key to supporting them in their journeys.  Another step in supporting and working people is being prepared to ask someone an extremely hard question, a question we never want to have to ask, but a question that is necessary at times. Are you thinking about killing yourself?

 I have often reflected on my own comfort level in asking this question. Would I be able to do this with a friend, family member, even my child? I can’t share enough how important of a question this is; literally it can mean life and death for some people. Some reading this might think, why ask the question? My response would be why not. I don’t mean that we should be parading around asking everybody as part of our conversations, but what I am saying is that there may and will be times that this is a very appropriate question to ask. MyHealth.Alberta.ca has some really good information about warnings sounds about suicide, with the signs being very broad, so I would encourage people to review this information. Asking the question about if a person is thinking about suicide is not easy. But it can be a first step in supporting a person who may want to end their life. And if the answer is yes, be prepared for that. And be prepared that the person may need your help in getting connected to supports. In Alberta there are some really great resources that people can access. Again, MyHealth.Alberta.ca is a great resource for a variety of medical issues, including suicide. There are also several crisis numbers that can be helpful for a person who is suicidal, including Health Link Alberta (1-866-408-5465 (LINK), The Mental Health Helpline (1-877-303-2642), and the Distress Centre (403.266.HELP (4357). These contacts are extremely helpful in getting people at risk of suicide to supports.

It is important for us to continue talking about suicide. It is there, it does happen, but it can be prevented. For people wanting to learn how to complete a suicide intervention, Living Works offers a 2-day workshop called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) that gives whole framework for suicide intervention. The Centre for Suicide Prevention also offers some great resources and information about suicide. Remember, anyone can be at risk of suicide but there are many resources available online, in your local mental health clinics, and with various health professionals that can support a person at risk of suicide, so be informed and don’t be afraid to ask the question. It can help save a life. 


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