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Municipal 2018
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Officials concerned about contagion effect but say suicide not endemic problem in Wellington County

by Chris Daponte

WELLINGTON CTY. - In the last several years, suicide has had an enormous impact on various communities in and around Wellington County.

While wary of the devastation felt when someone takes their own life, local police and mental health officials say suicide is not an endemic problem in Wellington County.

Fred Wagner, executive director of the Waterloo-Wellington branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), says  regional suicide rates have remained steady in recent years.

However, Wagner acknowledged the “suicide contagion” can be a very real phenomenon with serious impacts on a community.

He explained exposure to suicide within a community can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors.

“So it takes a whole community to engage in the discussion ... so that others who may have been triggered by that can get some help,” said Wagner.

OPP Inspector Scott Lawson said he agrees “100 per cent” with Wagner’s assessment of the situation.

“Suicide does affect small-town Ontario, without a doubt,” said Lawson.

“The contagion is a real challenge and our IMPACT team has been alive to that.”

(The Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team, a partnership with the CMHA,  enables specially-trained clinicians to attend mental health-related calls with Wellington OPP officers.)

Contagion aside, Wagner said the suicide rate across the province and country over the last several years has remained steady at about eight to 10 suicides for every 100,000 in population.

“It’s really discouraging and frustrating in a way, actually,” said Wagner of the stagnate suicide rates.

The goal, of course, he said, is to ensure fewer people are struggling to the point that taking their own life seems a viable option.

“It’s important, as a community to have a plan in place ... to help people understand where they can get help,” said Wagner.

He explained, “When you’re depressed you don’t carry much hope ... and it can be next to impossible to see that things could get better.”

Often, he said, it can help those struggling with suicidal thoughts to hear from someone who was once in the same situation - “to see that it is possible to come back from that.”

No two people are the same, and there are always a combination of factors involved, but “the most important thing is that people understand what they’re going through,” he said, adding that is crucial in order to move on to treatment.

February 9, 2018


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