Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a creation of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). The goal is to help reduce stigma, encourage discussion, and ultimately reduce deaths by suicide.
Nearly 4000 Canadians die by suicide every year. In my former province of Alberta, the rate of suicide is higher than the national average and suicides account for more deaths per year in Alberta than motor vehicle collisions. If this surprises you, it may be because these deaths typically occur in the shadows of the public sphere and they are seldom talked about openly. One reason for this is to protect the privacy of the deceased and their family members. Another (more fraught) reason has to do with our collective uneasiness with suicide and what it might imply about the person who died by their own hand. And, if we’re being honest, what it might imply about ourselves if we’ve ever considered suicide, either passively or more seriously.
Though many carry a healthy skepticism of the actual value of cause-dedication days, such as these, suicide remains a taboo topic that deserves acknowledgment and a much more open and public discussion than has traditionally occurred. Because honesty and openness are the start of the end of feeling hopeless and isolated for many people that are ambivalent about being alive. A day of dedication is one small step toward a greater collective understanding of mental illness and suicide in our culture. A day of dedication reminds those suffering that there is help.
If you or someone you care about is at risk for suicide, consider reaching out. Start by talking to someone you trust. Most cities have 24-hour distress lines with trained counsellors who can provide assistance when needed. If the risk of self-harm is more imminent, consider calling 911 or attending the emergency department of your local hospital for assessment and referrals for ongoing treatment. Help is available.