#WSPD: Sep 10, 2016

September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

The numbers are appalling.

In Canada, we have four thousand (4,000) deaths by suicide each year. Globally, there are more than six hundred eighty thousand (680,000) deaths annually. In Canada, one hundred thousand (100,000) people attempt to end their lives every year. Globally, this figure is seventeen million (17,000,000). My global figures, as horrendous as they are, are likely to be on the low-side of the truth.

The vast majority of those attempting suicide are female – women are ten times more likely than men to attempt suicide. However, three-quarters of deaths by suicide are men. Men are up to four times more likely than women to succeed.

Let me put these numbers into context.

I live in Oshawa, Ontario. The population of Oshawa, is approximately one hundred sixty thousand (160,000). If every man, woman and child died in Oshawa every three months, it would still not equate to the annual number of deaths by suicide globally.

Yet, despite these very disturbing facts, suicide continues to be a taboo subject. It is time for suicide, and its sibling, mental illness, to stop being ignored or hidden away. A crisis of this magnitude deserves public acknowledgement. Simply put, it is time to accept that mental health is viewed and funded as equally as important as physical health. Ignoring this truth can, and does, lead to fatal consequences.

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Let me be open. I am one of those statistics. My survival was mere happenstance. What has happened since, though, is not happenstance but choice.

On September 2, 2014, after having suffered through a depressive episode spanning years, I attempted to take my own life. My life was saved. But I very quickly determined that the only way for my life to continue was for me to change how I conducted myself. Specifically, I had to stop being the extremely private person that I was and become more open.

You see, I am an introvert. I am a private person. I suffer from depressive episodes. Now known to me, but not known then, I am also statistically at the highest level of risk for suicide – single white male, unemployed, over 50. As a male, as an introvert, as a person going through a depressive episode, communication was low on my list of preferred things to do. Very low. Together, these truths created a situation where I became too private, disclosing nothing about myself and isolating myself from all social interaction. This created, to my great misfortune, an ideal breeding ground for suicidal ideation. And I succumbed to it.

Obviously, I survived. But my decision to be more open has had profound consequences for me. It has led to my presence first on Google Blogger and subsequently on WordPress where I openly share my story. It has also led to my presence on Twitter where I have had the good fortune to gain a following of two thousand (2,000) like-minded people. It was through Twitter that I learned of, and followed, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) and, ultimately, my discovery of World Suicide Prevention Day.

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September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Those who die by suicide and those who attempt suicide are not mere statistics. Each has a story, and more often than not, the story includes a very preventable death or attempted death. I say this, because I am one of those stories. My actions were preventable, if I had only had the knowledge and the wherewithal to follow through on that knowledge.

I concede that by September 2, 2010, I was in a mental state where I may not have been reachable. But prior to that date, it is entirely possible that my progress into the dark abyss in which I found myself could have been averted. Certainly, it is a fiction I am willing to entertain.

I first became aware of Mark Henick, when I learned that he was speaking at a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) event in 2015. At the time I was unable to attend the event, but I did take the time to view this Tedx talk. If you haven’t yet watched it, please do. At the beginning of his talk, Mark raises the question of whether or not knowledge would have prevented his actions. I will let the video speak for itself. His answer, though, is probably the same that I would give.

I subsequently came across Mark’s blog “A Bond as Powerful as Certainty”. In this blog, Mark has shared a letter which he sent to Prime Minister Trudeau. It begins, “Suicide is a preventable public health problem.” It is a powerful opening statement. It is also quite true.

Each year, Canada experiences four thousand (4,000) needless deaths and one hundred thousand (100,000) needless attempted deaths. Each is preventable. I requires that our medical system and our society, accept that mental illness is valid and worthy of investment to combat. We have long known of the effect that the mind can have on physical illness, after all that is what the “placebo effect” is all about, yet we continue to underfund mental health creating a situation where needless deaths and attempts take place.

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September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

This year, CASP distributed one-hundred thousand (100,000) yellow and orange ribbons across Canada to bring this issue to public awareness. The colours of the ribbons bring to mind the colour of lights at the end of a candle. They bring to mind hope and they bring to mind rebirth.

For my part, I have prepared one hundred (100) of these ribbons to hand out at my local CMHA branch. I have joined with my local CMHA to prepare a video discussing the ribbons (which you can view here). In adition, on September 9 I will be at my local CMHA offices to help CMHA clients prepare their own ribbons and give a small talk about World Suicide Prevention Day. I do these things, not for personal glory, but because I am one of the statistics.

CASP, in partnership with the CMHA, is also bringing us Mysterious Barricades a free cross-Canada concert to promote suicide awareness, prevention and hope. Please, visit the Mysterious barricades site to learn more abot the event.

Finally, I urge you to visit the CASP website to learn more about the issue and to see what events may be planned for September 10, 2016 in your area.

Before closing, there is one other thing I’d like to say to you. It is within your power to help a struggling friend, colleague or family member. Reach out. Meet with that person. Don’t take no for an answer. And have a REAL talk, a meaningful talk, not superficial generalities. Go for a walk and share. But, most importantly, LISTEN. When the time is right, ask the hard questions and, if you don’t like the answers you are given, if you believe your friend to be a danger to his or her self, take your friend to the emergency department or stay with your friend but call 911.

September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Let’s all do our part to make this day unnecessary in 2017.