Six months ago, a young woman took her own life. She jumped off the parkade next to my office and the fall killed her. I walked out of my office just a few minutes after her fall and saw her lying on the pavement. I continue to wonder if I’d come out a couple of minutes sooner if maybe I could have … who knows? But I was shocked; her death hit my heart heavily. I couldn’t help but wonder what pain she must have been going through to have chosen such a permanent solution. Why couldn’t she see that everything changes, and that if she’d only ridden it out or sought help she would have found a solution.
The universe (however it does it) responded to my sadness at her death by putting me into a position to help others avoid suicide. A few months later, I found myself working for NEED2, an organization that helps youth get the help they need to avoid suicide.
Tragically, someone on our planet dies by suicide every 40 seconds. That’s one million people a year. As a global family, this includes our children, our parents, our friends and our colleagues. More people die every year by their own hand than those who die by homicide and war combined. On Vancouver Island where I live, 100 people will take their own lives over the next year.
World Suicide Prevention Day , which takes place September 10th, may not be a highly recognized day for most people. In part, that may be due to the stigma and silence that still surrounds suicide. One has to wonder, even in an age where cable TV characters swear freely, why the word “suicide” is obscene and why we don’t talk about it.
As Executive Co-Director NEED2, my mission is to talk about it and break the silence.
NEED2 is a charitable organization, primarily a volunteer driven one, with a small staff who go into schools and talk to classes about suicide. Because of the stigma out there, we may well be the only people to talk to these young people about suicide (which just happens to be the second leading cause of death among youth).
Last year, NEED2 presented to more than 2,000 kids, a number that coincidentally represents the number of youth on southern Vancouver Island who consider suicide as an option every year. Half of those attempt it and many need medical treatment following their attempt.
Then there are those who succeed.
My personal goal is to find ways of reaching the 20 youth here on south Vancouver Island who will likely take their own lives this year if they don’t get help . What I have learned so far at NEED2 is that talking about suicide doesn’t make anyone want to do it; it actually has the opposite effect. Talking about it can take the urgency out of the impulse and open up possibilities for finding other solutions to the pain and stress, confusion, anguish and fear many youth feel these days.
One has to ask how it is that 12% of our youth in British Columbia seriously consider suicide every year?
We know some of the precursors include bullying, abuse, mental health issues, gender and sexuality confusion, family violence, and depression. It’s also worth noting that suicide in youth is much more prevalent in the advanced economies of industrialized nations and far less prevalent in underdeveloped nations where kids are struggling to survive against infanticide, murder, human trafficking, poverty and disease.
It makes you wonder how advanced we are.
On World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, please light a candle and put it in your window at 8pm. Shine a light of remembrance for those who have died by suicide and help to take the stigma out of talking about it.
And if someone you know appears deeply troubled – ask if they are thinking about suicide. Trust me, it doesn’t hurt to ask and it shows you care. That may be all it takes to save a life.
If you live on southern Vancouver Island, NEED2 is holding a World Suicide Day Remembrance Gathering at Camosun College. The “Hope as Action” gathering will take place from 4 pm to 6 pm on Monday, September 10th at the NA’TSA’MAHT (First Nations Gathering Place) on the Lansdowne Campus of Camosun College, 3100 Foul Bay Road, Victoria.
Hope As Action” speaking guests include:
- First Nations Elder Alex Nelson
- Venerable Eshu Martin, the Abbot of the Victoria Zen Centre
- Daphne Shaed from The Pride Centre
- Jennifer White, Associate Professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria
- Erica Day, singer/songwriter
- and other honoured guests.
Everyone is welcome. Please visit the following links for further information.
Candle – Wikimedia Creative Commons