Sharing comfort and awareness

World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10 is a time to remember the lives of those whose despair took away their feelings of hope

Just about anybody could commit suicide: no one is immune. The B.C. Coroners Service suicide statistics for 2010 show that there were 113 suicides for people ages 50-59, 95 for ages 40-49 and 35 for ages 13-19. One suicide was under age 12. A total of 530 British Columbians, 110 female and 420 male, committed suicide in 2010.

“Some of the signs that might indicate that a person is thinking about suicide might be talking about feeling worthless or wanting to end it all, giving away personal possessions, seeming depressed or hopeless, or preparing for death when there is no reason like a terminal diagnosis, collecting medications, and changes in interests, for example, an interest in firearms when they have not been interested before,” said Hellmut Noelle, a counselor at the Family Resource Centre and one of the speakers at World Suicide Prevention Day taking place Sept. 10.

“When in doubt, simply ask people if they are thinking about suicide. If they say yes, the wrong thing to do is to say, ‘you haven’t got the courage to do it,’ or ‘you’re just saying that to get attention.’  As a counselor, I don’t remember ever encountering an attempted suicide as an attention getter.

“The right thing to do is to take it seriously. Ask for further information. Talk about it and  assure them that it is normal and nothing to be ashamed about. Most people think about suicide at some time in their life. That doesn’t make them a bad person or an evil person or a failure. Encourage the person to get help by talking to their doctors, a counselor or someone they trust. Talking about it defuses the pressure and helps a person see a way through the current situation.”

Noelle said that if a person is with someone who seems serious about suicide in the immediate future, do not hesitate to call 911 where they will be connected to someone who will ask questions to assess the situation and provide help. In the most severe cases, the police will be sent in.

World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 will be marked with a Remembrance Ceremony to take place at the Performing Arts Centre lobby (3800-33rd St., near the Recreation Complex).

The event is open to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide recently or long ago, and those who want to know how to support them. People are welcome to attend and watch and no one will approach them but they can ask to talk to someone if they want. There will be guest speakers, printed materials on loss and mental health available and a closing ceremony; people attending can drop rose petals in the creek in memory of loved ones.

Something new has been added to this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day event in Vernon. Soles to Remember Souls invites people to donate a pair of new or nearly new shoes or boots as a reminder that no one has to walk alone — suicide is everyone’s loss. The shoes/boots can be brought to the event or dropped off in advance at the Canadian Mental Health Association (3100-28 Ave.). The shoes/boots will be donated to the John Howard Society’s Shelters, Gateway Support Services for Women and Men, and the Howard House Men’s programs.

The event is sponsored by Vernon & Area Suicide Prevention committee, partner agencies, the PIN Crisis Line, the United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap, and the government of British Columbia. The event is a time to remember the lives of those whose pain and despair took away their feelings of hope and who died by suicide, to provide comfort to those who grieve and let them know they are not alone, and to publicly declare and renew commitment to preventing suicide in the community.

Anyone who feels at risk of committing suicide or know someone who might be, should call the PIN Crisis Line at 1-800-353-CARE (2273) for information, support and referrals.