Local reps reach out to raise awareness on Alberta suicide rate increase

Some Other Solutions speaks up

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Recent statistics revealed the rate of suicides in Alberta has increased to 30 per cent, according to data provided by the Alberta office of the chief medical examiner. Though the most recent data is dated to June 2015, more Albertans have taken their own lives in the first half of this year compared to the previous.

The representatives at Some Other Solutions (SOS) are reaching out to residents of the Wood Buffalo region to continue raising awareness on suicide prevention. A release was issued by SOS on December 9 to remind people:

“Suicide is preventable. Help is available.” It further stated how suicide is an issue in our community; in our province and more Albertans die by suicide than motor vehicle accidents.

“Suicide remains a taboo subject,” said Support and Wellness Counsellor at Some Other Solutions, Janene Hickman. “We believe that the stigma related to seeking support for mental health issues and suicide is of major concern.”

“Suicide remains a taboo subject,” said Support and Wellness Counsellor at Some Other Solutions, Janene Hickman. “We believe that the stigma related to seeking support for mental health issues and suicide is of major concern. People who are thinking about suicide are often feeling near the end and talking with someone who cares can be helpful in instilling hope and reminding individuals that their lives are important.”

Hickman shared how SOS receives notifications from Victim Services about suicides in the region. And though she said SOS has not seen an increase in deaths by suicide this year locally, they are “always cautious about numbers related to suicide because research shows that suicides are under reported. And that for every reported death, there are upwards of 25 attempts” for people who are suffering.

SOS operates a 24-hour confidential crisis line (780-743-HELP). Hickman said the numbers in support calls have been stable for 2014 and 2015. However, she said SOS believes many people effected by the economy “may have left town” and some of those people may be in need of support. There are many other factors that lead one into a state of depression and one of the biggest factors locally is due to isolation.

According to Hickman, the isolation concern stems from new residents coming to the community who lack “family or a strong support network” and this may contribute to the feelings of isolation.

“Long work hours, long and cold winters, being away from a major city centre, etcetera; all impact an individual’s ability to maintain mental wellness,” she said.

“There is no doubt that the economic challenges (have) impacted our community and its members, but I feel Fort McMurray is resilient and creative and individuals are supportive of each other.”

SOS and other community agencies offer training and workshops related to suicide prevention and education. Anyone with questions, or a desire to learn more, can call SOS at 780-743-8605 for information. The crisis line provides immediate support for those who need. Also, SOS has a GAP counselling program, offering short-term crisis counselling, and support for issues related to grief and loss.

“We don’t judge or scrutinize someone for having diabetes or cancer. Can we consider treating those with mental health issues with this same respect? Community support of social services and agencies that provide support to those in need, attendance at awareness events, and donations to local charities are all ways to help.”

“As a community, I think we need to show support for those in need and acceptance of those who are struggling. Mental health issues, thoughts of suicide, addictions are common and often require treatment, much like a physical health issue,” said Hickman. “We don’t judge or scrutinize someone for having diabetes or cancer. Can we consider treating those with mental health issues with this same respect? Community support of social services and agencies that provide support to those in need, attendance at awareness events, and donations to local charities are all ways to help.”

For more information, contact SOS at someothersolutions.ca

– Connect Weekly –