WELLINGTON NORTH – “Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide,” says Cecilia Marie Roberts.
For some, just having someone there to listen is a key to finding hope.
Roberts, suicide prevention project lead with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo-Wellington (CMHA-WW), spoke to Wellington North council on Jan. 13 about prevention initiatives in Wellington County.
In June, county council adopted a resolution to partner with CMHA-WW to lead the work of promoting life and preventing suicide under the “Here4Hope” strategy.
Developed in partnership with the Wellington County OPP, the Here4Hope framework provides a community approach to prevention and awareness, including mental health training, support and resources for the OPP, Wellington County employees and the community.
“The reality is that many of us don’t have an opportunity to have a lengthy conversation about suicide and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it,” Roberts stated.
“The reality is suicide causes long-term harm and effect to individuals, families and the community,” Roberts said.
“For every suicide between 15 and 30 individuals have their lives fundamentally shifted forever in a profound and difficult way.”
Of the 4,000 Canadians who die every year, about 75% are men, and 25% are women. Roberts said most of the deceased are aged 45 to 60.
She said there is a lot of talk about youth suicide, which in Canada is the second leading cause of death among young people.
“It is a problem not only in this community, but in communities all across the province and all across the country,” Roberts said.
When it comes to prevention, Roberts said “the key ingredient really is hope. It is absolutely where we need to start.”
She explained various programs are underway within Wellington County, but sometimes the issue is simply connecting people with the help they need.
“Suicide is a very complex issue. The data which exists in each community makes it very difficult to knit together a complete picture,” she said.
“But it is still my job to dive into that data.”
She added, “We need to help everyone to understand that suicide is preventable. We also need to help everyone understand that suicide is not about wanting to die, it is a struggle about living.”
Roberts said the Here4Hope framework, including a list of evidence-based activities and programs to be worked on “concurrently.”
“Part of this is about developing policies that promote mental health and wellness and to offer programs such as suicide awareness so that everyone in the community will have a chance to understand what to look for in a loved one, and how they can reach out to get some help,” Roberts said.“We need to learn to intentionally notice when someone is having a hard time, to be able to stop, listen, pay attention and have a conversation.”
Wellington North Mayor Andy Lennox said mental health will be the topic for township council’s next open forum discussion.