(Note: This article originally appeared in the Kelowna Capital News)
Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), an opportunity to spread messages of help, hope, and healing. Awareness days can increase the public’s knowledge about specific issues and reduce the stigma that often keeps people from reaching out for help. Awareness days like WSPD are a great start, but they also come and go.
The Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association – CMHA Kelowna – wants everyone in our community to be equipped to support a loved one, or even a stranger, to keep safe if they are having thoughts of suicide. These skills can be applied throughout a lifetime, beyond one day or month of the year.
“Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. Everyone is impacted when there is a loss in our community,” says Jessica Samuels, Communication Manager at CMHA Kelowna. “We also know that many people find themselves in a position where they want to help, but don’t know what to do.”
You don’t need to be a medical professional to support someone to connect with services in our community. CMHA Kelowna is offering two safeTALK suicide alertness courses, broadening WSPD into a month-long campaign. The courses are being subsidized by the Blenk Family Fund through the KGH Foundation and only cost $10 per person to register.
safeTALK is a half-day training where participants learn to be more alert when someone may be having thoughts of suicide, and provides a framework for having conversations about connecting to intervention services.
“In a safeTALK course, we usually have participants from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. This creates a dynamic learning environment and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had any prior training or not,” says Aaryn Secker, CMHA Kelowna’s safeTALK facilitator. “Hope is the basis of the course. Many people in the room have felt the impact of suicide in very personal ways, but there is hope for the future if we work together.”
CMHA Kelowna is also running a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course on Sept. 20 and ongoing programming through their Wellness Development Centre, Workplace Training department, and the Foundry Kelowna integrated youth clinic, of which CMHA Kelowna is the lead agency.
“There is so much we can do on a day-to-day basis to support wellness and safety in our community,” says Samuels. “We want people to know that they are not alone.”
For course registration and more information on how to get involved, visit: cmhakelowna.com/suicide-prevention-month
If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).