My name is Ann Bayly-Bruneel. Alongside my team at CMHA Middlesex, I have had the privilege of supporting individuals and families impacted by suicide for more than ten years. Whether I am meeting a person who is struggling with thoughts of depression and suicide, a person hoping to connect a loved one to services, or someone grieving a suicide death, my first step is to listen compassionately and lean in to hear both the individual and the inter-generational impacts of suicide.
It is estimated that each day in Canada 11 people die by suicide and 210 people make an attempt. Middlesex County’s stats are higher than the national average and at CMHA Middlesex we see this reality on a daily basis. If we generously listen to our friends, family and neighbours, we will hear and see the many “invitations” to ask, offer care and hope that are all around us. None of us are immune to suicide and there are visible and unseen impacts everywhere. This is the reality, and having solidarity to speak openly about suicide breaks down barriers and decreases stigma.
Many of us are sad, lonely, depressed and disconnected from self and others. For individuals impacted by trauma and/or who are from marginalized communities such as indigenous or LGBTQ communities, the rates of suicide are higher. How we respond matters and how we talk about suicide matters as we must attempt to bridge years of hurt, isolation and injustice. For example, historically, we said a person “committed” suicide. Today we honour the individual’s life by saying, “died by suicide.”
While it is my role as a crisis worker to support people in crisis, we ALL have a role to play as part of our connection to our fellow human beings — knowing that at any moment we too can fall or suffer. Suicide is a social issue that requires a community response. We need to listen and attend to subtle or bold changes in the affect (feelings or emotions) and behaviour of those around us. These conversations are not meant to be comfortable, they are intended to pull us close to the bone of our own existence. There are educational resources like Safe Talk and Mental Health First Aid to better prepare and equip us to engage in these difficult conversations.
Join us at the Strathroy Town Hall on Sept 7, 2017 at 11:00 am, to support our community, to listen, and to learn skills and resources to help link individuals to informal/formal supports. The international World Suicide Prevention Day campaign – “Take a Minute—Change a Life” recognizes that change starts with a conversation. Generously listen. Be open, inclusive and non-judgmental. Ask for what is needed, and be compassionate knowing that how we start conversations will determine if the thread is picked up and continued with someone else.
The other day, a man in his 60’s shared, “I wished that someone listened to me about the toll of suicide in my family when I was younger.” His story is not unique and it is the insight into his symptoms of depression, suicidal behaviour and anxiety that empowers him now to have compassion for himself and to have a fuller life with broader connections. He is now considering attending the Survivors of Suicide Group, a peer lead group in Middlesex County that conveys, “You (and I will boldly state) WE are Not Alone.”
Did you know?
Victim Services of Middlesex-London (VSML) supports victims, families and witnesses of crime and/or tragic circumstance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the request of police and other emergency services. When an individual completes or attempts suicide VSML is often on-scene immediately at the request of the family to provide emotional support and practical assistance to those that are grieving. We will then follow-up with the family and friends in the days following to ensure they are provided the appropriate long term community referrals when they are ready to reach out and know where to turn. Individuals can self-refer to VSML during office hours as well.