EDITORIAL: Bringing suicide into the light, before it happens

Recent public incidents a reminder for all of us to reach out when people are troubled

This week, our collective Black Press newsrooms have reported on several missing persons incidents that sadly turned out to be suicides.

The fact that missing person reports generate online headlines and reader engagement is a sign that the public is truly interested in those people being found safe and very much alive. When they are not, it’s sad for everyone involved.

Having a person’s decision to end their life thrust into a bright spotlight, with a rallying of public resources and the often viral spread of the missing person notices through social media, is by far the less common scenario.

The societal stigmas attached to either attempting suicide or achieving it, not to mention a generational reluctance to ask for help – people aged 40 and up accounted for 64 per cent of all suicide deaths in Canada in 2009 – lead many who reach this place of desperation to find the most private, solitary way to do so. A Harvard University study found that three-quarters of suicide attempts occur at home, statistics we expect are similar to those in Canada.

After the fact, people tend to lament the loss of years they or others might have had with the person who is gone, which is a fully understandable part of the grieving process. We prefer to think about how those people might have been helped before they chose the ultimate end.

StatsCan figures show 90 per cent of people who commit suicide have a mental or addictive disorder – treatable conditions, but also one that requires choice and hard work on the part of the individual.

It takes courage to reach out for help, but also for friends and family to break the silence and encourage loved ones who appear to be struggling emotionally or mentally to seek help.

Letting people know they’ll be supported in their journey toward good mental health can help break the stigma and avoid the sad stories like those we’ve been telling lately.

If you or a loved on ever feel like you need help, you can call the B.C. Crisis Centre at 1-800-784-2433.

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