Despite making a concerted effort to steer away from talking about mental health recovery in my columns, this one is going to be an exception.
The reason is that Suicide Prevention Day takes place on Sept. 10 across Canada.
As someone who has spent a very significant portion of time between 2013 and 2017 highly suicidal, Suicide Prevention Day holds a special meaning for me.
In speaking with professionals, family members, and others who have faced the demons of suicidal ideation, one theme that has continued to come forward even in this day and age is that suicide is viewed as an ultimately selfish act.
Those who have struggled with suicidal ideation, myself included, have faced judgement and stigmatization from family members, colleagues, and even health professionals.
From a personal perspective, the option of suicide was not selfish but rather the inability to cope in an increasingly stressful and complex world along with a wish to ease the burden of my struggles on those around me.
The way I saw it, it was a short-term pain for those who would have survived with the benefit of not having to worry about me any longer.
Fortunately, after one of my hospital admissions during those years, I connected with a doctor who managed to strike the balance between pushing me and being supportive, as well as getting my medications sorted out.
Since 2018, though I have had dips, I have been on a generally upward climb and the suicidal ideation is all but gone.
Recovery is possible.
As challenging as the years have been, I am grateful that my suicidal thoughts and actions did not result in success; there were times when things easily could easily have gone the other way.
I’m not saying all this to state my approval of suicide, far from it. I’m saying that I can understand what leads someone down that path.
The last thing someone struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental illness needs is judgement or stigmatization; they need support.
However, that support can take many forms.
Support can vary anywhere from something as simple as providing a shoulder to lean on to someone actually needing health services intervention.
I know having been in the hospital a number of times over the years due to my mental health that I likely wouldn’t be here if it was not for that intervention.
Someone completing a suicide attempt is a tragedy, and in my opinion, suicide is 100 per cent preventable.
The first step in preventing it is for the general public to get informed about what suicide is, and isn’t.
Suicidal ideation isn’t a cry for attention.
Suicidal ideation isn’t — usually — a form of manipulation.
Suicidal ideation is a legitimate emergency that can be caused by excess stress or brain chemistry being off; the brain is an organ, just like the pancreas, liver, and kidneys and it can malfunction as well.
According to the Government of Canada website, every year in Canada, around 4,500 people, or 12 people per day, die by their own hand and around 200 people attempt suicide.
Every person who takes their own life leaves behind parents, children, siblings and spouses to grieve their loss.
While I think it’s great that the Government of Canada has Sept. 10 as Suicide Prevention Day, Mental Health Week in May, and that corporations like Bell have stepped up to bring awareness with their Bell Let’s Talk campaign held every January, it all amounts to too little for a significant problem.
These awareness days are great for bringing the subject back into the spotlight for a brief time, these conversations are ones which should be held all year long by everyone.
Sufferers have too long struggled with mental health issues in the darkness, it is time to finally shed light on the subject permanently.
For more information on suicide and suicide prevention, check out the Centre for Suicide Prevention at www.suicideinfo.ca.
In Alberta, in crisis call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642, or 911 in an emergency.
Kevin Sabo is the editor of the Stettler Independent, Castor Advance, and Bashaw Star