A Community-Wide Approach to Suicide Prevention

The Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition (NSPC) is committed to Suicide prevention at both a global and local level. On September 10th we marked “World Suicide Prevention Day”.

Globally it is estimated that 80,4000 individuals died by suicide in 2012; this is likely underreported. With every suicide there are many more nonfatal suicide attempts. In May 2013, the World Health organization (WHO) released its first ever mental health action plan. Suicide prevention is an integral part of this plan and the WHO’s goal is to reduce suicides by 10 % by 2020. The WHO’s companion report on suicide prevention, released this month, acknowledges that despite the evidence that many deaths are preventable, suicide prevention is often a low priority for government and policy makers. The objects of the WHO’s report is to prioritize suicide prevention as a public health issue.

In Niagara the NSPC has been engaging the community over the past 10 years to acknowledge and prioritize suicide as a public health issue. On average 45 people die by suicide in Niagara each year; that is one person every eight days. The NSPC has been working with the community on building the Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Charter to ensure Suicide Prevention efforts are an integral part of the implementation of the charter. Currently, the NSPC has gathered Niagara-specific suicide data and has drafted six suggested actions steps to help move Niagara to becoming a suicide-safer community.

In addition, The NSPC received funding for a grant project to evaluate Living Works inc. Safe Talk Suicide awareness training as the standard suicide prevention message for Niagara. Currently the NSPC in partnership with Distress Centre Niagara has received a grant from the Niagara Community foundation to train 500 Niagara residences in Safe Talk.

Part of World Suicide Prevention Day is to help break the stigma and educate the community about suicide prevention. In addition, this day provides a space for the community and loved ones to remember lives lost by suicide. Distress Centre Niagara Held their 9th annual suicide awareness walk on Sunday September 7th 2014. This Walk also serves as a fundraiser for Distress Centre Niagara to help continue Suicide Prevention efforts in Niagara. The event was hugely successful, raising over $20,000 to support Distress Centre Niagara’s 24-hour crisis service and suicide prevention efforts. Over 160 individuals were in attendance and a vast majority were walking in memory of a loved one lost to suicide. Along with memories shared, there was the consistent message and theme of breaking the stigma that surrounds the issue of suicide, as well as mental health. Keynote speaker for the day, Alexandra Hopkins, gave a heartfelt personal account of struggles in her adolescent years with mental health, suicide ideation, self-harm and a suicide attempt. Her account shared the importance of someone in her life having the insight, courage and knowledge to recognize she was at risk and to talk openly with her.

This day solidified for all of us the importance of suicide prevention work, and the need to continue education and awareness efforts in this community to make Niagara suicide-safer.

The WHO reminds us that communities play a critical role in suicide prevention. If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, know there is help available. For adults please call the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) 1-866-550-5205. For someone under the age of 16 please call Pathstone Crisis services 1-800-263-4944. In addition you can also call the Distress Centre Niagara at 905-688-3711.

Ian Masse
Co-Chair
Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition
IMasse@questchc.ca

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