Every year, people in more than 60 countries recognize Sept. 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).
Continuing on its triennial theme, this year, WSPD is themed around “Creating Hope Through Action.” According to the World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention, this theme “is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us.”
According to IASP statistics, an estimated 703,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year. In 2019 alone, over one in every 100 deaths were the result of a suicide.
These devastating statistics are what caused IASP to establish WSPD in 2003. According to a 2014 report by the World Health Organization, “This day has spurred campaigns both nationally and locally and has contributed to raising awareness and reducing stigma.”
The main focus of this day is advocacy and spreading awareness about suicide through the use of social media and literacy events. In 2016, IASP launched a universal suicide prevention ribbon to create an international awareness symbol. And every year, IASP asks that individuals support the day and honour lost loved ones by lighting a candle in their window at 8 p.m.
Listening to Make a Difference
One of the best things individuals can do to help is to listen to those impacted by suicide.
“Many people who survive suicidal thinking or behaviours describe the intense pain, filled with hopelessness and despair. They also talk about wanting the pain to end, not necessarily to die,” the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) stated in their WSPD toolkit.
The toolkit further explained that the pain is often caused by complex and unique circumstances, including a treatable mental illness, stressful life events, and/or difficulties with coping skills. However, things can change, and people can be directed to different interventions to help with each challenge.
As mentioned in the toolkit, people tend to be afraid of intervening. However, taking time out of their day to reach out to someone could change their life.
Tips for Reaching Out
CASP has outlined a list of specific things people can do for someone who is struggling:
- Check-in with them regularly to see how they are doing.
- Listen supportively to what they have to say.
- Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers.
- Know and introduce them to resources in their area if they need additional support.
- Be prepared to assist them in finding information, but don’t take over as that may reinforce their sense of helplessness.
Supporting a CAF Member
As suicide is a public health issue for all Canadians, members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are also included. The Government of Canada website explains how essential it is that all military personnel recognize and educate themselves about mental health issues. Despite a prevention program and robust healthcare system in place, CAF members should be aware of changes as they happen.
For the CAF, caring for members and their families will remain a priority in the area of mental health.
“The CAF continues to assess its capabilities and adjust its resources to ensure it is meeting the increasing complexities and demands associated with caring for our own.
“But we can’t do it alone. We each have a role to serve in identifying and assisting those affected by mental health concerns. Often, peers and family members are the first to notice behavioural changes, and when we do, we must not be afraid to act – do not underestimate the impact you can have,” the website reads.
Resources & Programs Military Personnel and Families
In addition to the primary care services and mental health clinics accessible on every wing and base, CAF members and their families regarding mental health concerns have access to these CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada services and programs:
- Counselling under the Member Assistance Program at 1-800-268-7708.
- The 24/7 Family Information Line at 1-800-866-4546.
- Peer support through the Operational Stress Injury Social Support network.
- Support from base chaplains.
- Help from Military Family Resource Centres located at CAF installations across the country, in the U.S. and Europe.
- The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (CFMAP)
- For more information on support programs available to CAF members and their families, visit the Mental Health Services and Support Backgrounder and the You’re Not Alone website.
- Retired CAF personnel can find information here.