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Suicide is not the End of Pain: It is only the Beginning


Are you thinking of ending your own life?
That is a question that is difficult for anyone to ask, either of themselves or of someone else.
The desire to die may be a fleeting thought or constant nag, but it is always serious, and always tragic that anyone feels the need to take their own life.
As World Suicide Prevention Day comes up on the calendar, many Swan Valley residents as well as residents of Swan Valley’s neighbouring First Nations communities recognize that suicide is a problem that must be dealt with and thought of more than one day out of the year.
According to EveryoneMattersManitoba.ca, a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) website dedicated to providing information on youth suicide, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth ages between 10 and 24, based on Statistics Canada data from 2011.
In 2011 alone, 227 Canadian youth between ages 10 and 19 died by suicide, while an additional 301 young adults between 20 and 24 also died by suicide.
While successful suicide attempts are still at the highest rate with men in their 40s and 50s, suicide accounted for a total of 5,028 potential years of lost life among Manitobans in 2011.
When zooming in on the statistics for our relevant local region, the numbers appear to be a little bit more positive. In the community health assessment published in 2015, the numbers indicate that Prairie Mountain Health has been approximately on par with the provincial average of 18 suicides per 100,000 residents aged 10 and up, between 2007 and 2011. However, once the lens is focused further on Prairie Mountain Health North, that number jumps to 27 per 100,000 in that same time period. The only provincial region higher is the Northern Regional Health Authority at 44 suicides per 100,000 people aged 10 and up.
One also doesn’t have to look far or talk to too many people to realize that suicide is a much bigger problem among indigenous youth versus non-indigenous youth in Manitoba, even five to seven times higher, according to Health Canada.
On an anecdotal basis, Swan River RCMP Sergeant Steve Hensen has confirmed that statistic.
“Based on my own experience and police service in three Canadian provinces, I have seen a higher incident of suicide amongst the indigenous community as compared to any other group of people,” he said, noting that all suspicious deaths including suicides are investigated by police, and examine physical evidence, statements from people associated with the victim, and consult with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner before determining and confirming whether or not the deceased took their own life.
“Suicide has always been an issue and its a neverending problem,” added Richard Gott, interim health director for Sapotaweyak Cree Nation Health Authority (SCNHA), adding that they have been taking active steps in the community - such as putting on suicide awareness workshops and retreat camps on a monthly basis - in order to address and mitigate the occurrence of suicide and the grief that it causes the community.
“We just had (a workshop) on Aug. 21-23, which received a very good response. We are planning another one in late September or early October.
“We are trying to have this on a regular basis instead of just having one workshop and forgetting about it,” Gott continued. “This is a forever issue that isn’t going away. Our youth seem to be the most vulnerable lately and are being affected by whatever it is in their lives.”
If anybody is dealing with suicidal thoughts, or knows that somebody is thinking of taking their own life, there are a number of options to help prevent a suicide from being attempted.
Hensen confirmed that all RCMP are well trained to de-escalate a myriad of situations, suicide included.
“Much of the RCMP training is in talking down, mitigating, and safely taking control of a situation or person,” he said. “Adding to this, a number of officers have taken workshops and courses relating specifically to suicide and suicidal persons.
“Our next step is to bring this person to the medical and mental health professionals at the nearest hospital. That is done under the authority of the Mental Health Act.”
Although there are a number of professionals that are trained specifically in dealing with a suicidal person, representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Authority said that the first step in dealing with the problem is telling anybody who will be able to help. If that person or group does not have the full ability to offer an urgent or long-term solution, they can always refer that person to someone they know will be able to offer better care.
They also mentioned that, although family and friends are the first line of defence against someone taking their own life, it is important that those people not be overly anguished in grief and guilt that they should have done something more. Sometimes, there is nothing that can be done to stop someone else’s choices, and to dwell on that fact is to risk one’s own mental health.
In order to better equip yourself in dealing with suicidal persons, or to deal with thoughts you may be having yourself, visit your local mental health professionals for more information.
And, although it may be a difficult conversation to have, if you suspect that someone may be thinking of ending their own life, reach out to them and ask. Sometimes, a truly listening ear and feeling of support makes a world of difference in saving a life.

Jeremy Bergen