September 10th is recognized around the world as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), an initiative of International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), now in its 13th year. It is seen as a call to action for organizations, communities and individuals to come together and talk about what we can do to prevent suicide.
This year IASP released its first ever ribbon campaign, made of orange and yellow, colors often utilized in the suicide prevention movement because it is believed they illicit feelings of hope. The Canadian Association of Suicide (CASP) has a goal to distribute 100,000 free ribbons across Canada. Why 100,000? Because 100,000 signifies how many deaths by suicide and suicide attempts there are every year in Canada. According to CASP each year there is an average of 4,000 deaths by suicide in Canada; for every suicide there are approximately 25 attempts. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Canada.
When I talk about suicide prevention, I am often asked “what can we really do to prevent suicide? Can we prevent suicide at all?”
These questions often come amidst a tragedy that has or is continuing to occur, where people are desperate to understand.
We absolutely can prevent suicides. There is significant evidence from around the world that we can build communities that are more resilient and less impacted by suicide, we even know many of the steps to do so. So where do we start?
We can start by committing to building suicide safer communities, to learn more, visit CASP at http://suicideprevention.ca/get-involved/build-suicide-safer-communities/
We can advocate for our governments to create national and provincial suicide prevention plans, such as that called for this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Editorial http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2016/09/06/cmaj.160935
We can support the development and operations of suicide prevention services including crisis lines such as Klinic’s Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line, or web resources such as our recently re-launched http://reasontolive.ca/.
We can reach out to people we know who may be struggling, we can listen, and offer support and resources by becoming more aware of the issue, and not avoiding or falling victim to the stigma that often comes with talking about mental health issues and suicide.
Here at home, the Winnipeg Suicide Prevention Network supported our fourth annual WSPD event at Vimy Ridge Park. The theme this year was Walking Together Towards Hope and Healing, arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action, with the understanding that if we are to tackle the issue of suicide awareness and prevention, we must do so with all peoples working and walking together.
I was very honoured to emcee this event, in particular to have guests such as Knowledge Keeper Shane Patterson, who brought us the teaching of the drum through his words and his beautiful song, alongside the Dreamcatcher Drumming Group, whose songs of hope and healing reverberated through Vimy Ridge Park, and all of us who were there, listening. You can read an article about the event here.
Every year that we host this event, I am reminded that though there is still much work to do, we are a part of a much bigger global community who believes that change is possible, with hope and commitment. We are not alone.
Resources : Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line