Municipal Hall in Agassiz is lit orange and yellow to help raise awareness of suicide prevention. (Contributed Photo/District of Kent)

‘We need to reduce the stigma’: Reflecting on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide kills nearly 800,000 people per year, WHO states

WARNING: The following article contains references to suicide and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Mental health has come more into the spotlight in recent years. During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month throughout September, Agassiz-Harrison is reminded that while mental health awareness is on the rise, the battle to help those suffering must be fought every day.

It’s been just over 10 years since Andrea McRae and her husband, John, lost their son Michael to suicide.

“In that time, I believe as a society, we are much more aware of how prevalent it is,” McRae said. “Suicide affects all socioeconomic groups, all ethnicities, all genders. It is indiscriminate.”

RELATED: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

According to the a 2019 study from the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800,000 people die from suicide every year. For every suicide, there are even more who attempt suicide every year.

The WHO indicates a significant link between suicide and mental disorders, specifically depression and alcohol-related disorders. According to a study conducted earlier this year, more than 264 millions people of all ages suffer from depression. It’s the current leading cause of disability across the world.

Many suicides also come impulsively in moments of crisis and the inability to deal with the stresses of life, including disaster, abuse, loss, isolation, financial burdens and the breakdown of relationships.

“What I feel people fail to realize is that when a person has made the decision to take their own life, it isn’t that they want to die, but the pain of living has become greater than their fear of dying,” McRae said.

Suicide rates among certain vulnerable groups who experience discrimination is also high. These groups include LGBTI persons, prisoners, Indigenous peoples and refugees.

RELATED: Paint-Nite to raise funds for the walk to defeat depression

The stigma surrounding mental health issues continues to prevent many people from seeking help, McRae said.

“We need to reduce that stigma,” she said. “We need to acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay and stand by those who reach out. Help is available. It’s not easy, but it’s there.”

Suicide is preventable. The WHO states there are a number of ways on multiple levels that everyone can help.

Reducing the means of suicide such as getting rid of pesticides, firearms and certain medications

Early identification and treatment for people with mental or substance use disorders, chronic pain or acute emotional distress

Training for non-specialized health care workers in assessing and managing suicidal behaviour

Follow-up care for those who have attempted suicide

School-based interventions

RELATED: Time to stamp out stigma

On an individual and personal level, McRae said loved ones of those suffering with depression can help by showing them unconditional love.

“If it means talking for 24 hours with them to keep them feeling safe, feeling cared for, feeling accepted, then that’s what we must do,” she said. “The worst thing anyone can do is invalidate someone’s suffering. The pain of mental health issues is real and it can be soul-destroying.”

Help is available and could be just a call away. If you or anyone you know is experiencing acute worry, distress, suicidal thoughts or feelings, addiction issues or other mental health problems, The Fraser Health Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, every day. Call 604-951-8855 or 1-877-820-7444.

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