Last Thursday was “Bell Let's Talk Day,” which is aimed at sparking conversations around mental health, lessening stigma, and raising funds to support mental health services in Canada.
Locally, a SafeTALK Suicide Alertness Training session was offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association at the Northern Community Development Services office on Scott Street to train people to recognize suicidal behaviours.
“Today's 'Bell Lets Talk Day' so we thought it was a good day to shine a light on suicide alertness and mental health,” CMHA community support lead Charlene Strain said afterwards.
“Suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone and the more people we have that are aware of when someone's having suicidal thoughts, and how to connect them to help, the less stigma there will be around suicide,” she added.
The SafeTALK training is community-based and teaches individuals how to become aware when someone might be having suicidal thoughts—and how to connect them to help to keep them safe.
“I would hope that those who attended the sessions learned how to be aware of 'invitations'—when someone might be having thoughts of suicide,” said Strain.
“Invitations” are when a person with suicidal thoughts displays signs that they may be suicidal. These would include giving away possessions, writing wills, engaging in careless behaviours, and substance overuse or abuse.
“The course really teaches about being open to these 'invitations' and how to directly ask somebody if they're having thoughts of suicide,” noted Strain.
She said the course had an excellent response from its participants and one women who attended said “every parent should be trained in this.”
“A lot of people would recommend this to others and found great value in attending today,” Strain enthused.
Almost 3.4 million Canadians aged 12 and up have had suicidal thoughts and it is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
With suicide and suicidal thoughts being so prominent, it's important to reduce stigma so people who are suffering may be more likely to reach out for help.
“In the [SafeTALK] course, it's taught that people who have suicidal thoughts indicate that it's actually the stigma that's worse for them than the thoughts themselves,” Strain explained.
“The more that we reduce stigma, the more people will talk about mental health and suicide, in particular, and get help just like we would for our physical health,” she reasoned.
Strain's advice for those with a friend or relative who may be suffering from suicidal thoughts is to look for “invitations,” listen to the person, and connect them with a person or organization that can keep them safe.
For those who personally are struggling with suicidal thoughts, she recommends reaching out for help.
“If you're having suicidal thoughts, talk to somebody you trust, talk to a mental health counsellor, call crisis response services, talk to your doctor,” Strain urged.
La Verendrye Hospital here runs crisis response services 24/7 for those in emergency situations.
A toll-free confidential crisis line also runs seven days a week, which is offered through Crisis Response Services for Kenora/Rainy River districts at 1-866-888-8988.
Qualified professionals who are trained in issues related to mental health will be available to provide crisis intervention and prevention, suicide intervention, and support for callers during periods of self-determined crisis.