In Canada, approximately 11 out of every 250 people who attempt suicide end their lives. Suicide ideation starts from around age 10 and it is ranked as the ninth leading cause of death, behind illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Talking openly, with compassion, about suicide can help reduce these statistics.
“Although it may seem like suicide is not something to be concerned with in Revelstoke, experts estimate that for every completed suicide, between 10 and 100 suicides are attempted,” explains Stacie Byrne, one of the vigil organizers.” An article published in 2016 in National Geographic (add link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/adventure-blog/2016/05/16/why-are-ski-towns-suicides-happening-at-such-an-alarming-rate/) discussed why ski-towns were seeing more suicides, highlighting that Revelstoke is not immune.
There are approximately 4000 deaths by suicide each year in Canada and males are three times more likely to commit suicide. Yet, suicide rates among women are rising quickly. The reasons behind this can be traced to mental illness, as with all demographics, but the risk of becoming suicidal can be three to five times higher for women who have experienced violence. (https://globalnews.ca/news/4274136/suicide-rates-women-men-canada/?fbclid=IwAR2K_3UQNeWxqQgJXFNfBk781SFbyjzeH8n-tzHCfUCJdOjHSzMaoidTQZQ).
The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society is a place for women to turn to (crisis/support line is 250-837-1111) and it also has an outreach program called Moving Forward (http://revelstokewomensshelter.com/outreach-programs/) that offers emotional support and community for women who have suffered from abuse.
The shelter’s men’s group, Moving Mountains, has become an important resource in Revelstoke since it was piloted in early 2018 as a place for men to turn to. It offers one-on-one support as well as a social group.
“We’ve found that men of all ages are turning to us and being more open about problems occurring in their lives, which is really important to encourage,” said Moving Mountains coordinator Taha Attiah.
Suicide in age groups
While the most common age group for suicide in Canada is between 40 and 60, youth and seniors are also at risk. Suicide among youth is growing at an alarming rate and currently sits as the second leading cause of death for youth in the country.
“The teen years are a time of transition, often accompanied by feelings of stress,” explains Byrne, who is the coordinator for the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Local Action Team here in Revelstoke. “Through a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Revelstoke CYMHSU over the past three years, 45 people in Revelstoke have been trained to be suicide aware through training called SafeTALK,” she says.
Seniors on the other hand, are at higher risk due to social isolation, which puts them more at risk of depression. In 2012, a report by the CMHA reported men aged 65 and older had a higher suicide rate than any other generation.
“It’s a popular misconception that youth have the highest suicide rate – as baby boomers begin to age, Canadian mental health organizations are concerned that we will begin to see suicide rates among seniors sky rocket,” explains Lisa Cyr, Coordinator for the Revelstoke Community Response Network. “It’s important to keep our seniors involved as valued community members, which helps reduce depression and feelings of isolation, which are major contributing factors to suicide. Depression is not a normal part of aging.”
Motivating factors for suicide
While suicide can be a devastating side effect of mental illness, depression and substance use, suicide may not be related to mental illness at all. Risk factors are major life changes and trauma such as death or divorce, or major life transitions like those experienced by youth and seniors can also lead to suicide.
In order to identify the major warning signs of suicide, the acronym IS PATH WARM (https://cmha.ca/documents/preventing-suicide) is commonly used:
I—Ideation: thinking about suicide
S—Substance use: problems with drugs or alcohol
P—Purposelessness: feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living
A—Anxiety: feeling intense anxiety or feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
T—Trapped: feeling trapped or feeling like there is no way out of a situation
H—Hopelessness or Helplessness: feeling no hope for the future, feeling like things will never get better
W—Withdrawal: avoiding family, friends, or activities
A—Anger: feeling unreasonable anger
R—Recklessness: engaging in risky or harmful activities normally avoided
M—Mood change: a significant change in mood
World Suicide Prevention Day in Revelstoke
The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter, the Revelstoke Community Response Network and the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Local Action Team will hold their silent vigil this Tuesday, September 10, to honour those lost to suicide, and those struggling or affected by it.
The vigil will take place at Grizzly Plaza, from 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. with candle lanterns available.
If you cannot make it but want to show support, light a lantern and place it in your window (considering fire safety) or change your Facebook profile to the candle icon (available on the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Facebook page, or at the bottom of this article).