The Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin is recognizing World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) locally this year with the launch of a new campaign.
“World Suicide Prevention Day is a chance to bring the messages behind suicide awareness and prevention to a public audience,” said Heather Glenister, coordinator of the local suicide awareness council. “Suicide is very much stigmatized, it’s not a word that people want to talk about, and it’s not an issue that people want to talk about.”
World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed on Sept. 10, was first established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (ISAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The day looks to bring awareness to suicide prevention while also reducing stigma and providing support to grieving families.
This year the theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is Creating Hope Through Action, and the local suicide awareness council have launched a new campaign called RE-CONNECTING: 10 Days 100 Ways.
“We recognize that there’s a lot of fear, anxiety, and burnout right now. It’s challenging times, there’s a lot of stress and stress can lead to mental health challenges, which can lead to higher risk for suicide,” said Glenister. “What we decided to do was look at protective factors that can help us build resilience and gives us a chance to look at things that make us happy and joyful.”
Since the start of September, the council has encouraged community members to share photos on social media of the numerous ways they reconnect based on 10 themes. The themes chosen by the council include; physical wellness; self; heritage, culture and traditions; community; spirituality; intellect; play; nature; social connection; and emotions.
“By engaging in these, by reconnecting with them in whatever manner or form somebody wants, we hope people can build a resilience so they can handle the stress that we’re experiencing and have been for quite a while. When you have resilience you are likely at less risk for suicide.”
The Suicide Prevention Council of Wellington-Dufferin was started in 1999 and has been doing suicide awareness work in the region for over 20 years. The council is made up of different organizations and agencies in the community as well as those interested in mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.
While the council doesn’t provide services like a helpline or counselling, they do look to reach people in the community in ways that larger organizations can’t.
“We come together as a collective and look at what are some of the gaps in our community,” said Glenister.
She added that the organization has a number of working groups that look at particular populations and their journey with mental health and suicide prevention. These working groups including seniors and most recently the farming, agriculture and veterinary communities.
According to the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention an average of around 4,000 Canadians die each year by suicide, which is over 11 people a day.
Glenister said while they raise awareness for suicide, the local prevention council chooses not to focus on the local statistics of suicide.
“The reason I don’t talk into statistics is because they can be interpreted in many ways that are not accurate and it also takes away from the person, they become a number.”
The Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin alongside their campaign are also looking to launch a new website by mid-September to help provide further reaching resources to specific groups in Dufferin County and Wellington.
As part of World Suicide Prevention Day, an invitation is open to the community to light a candle at 8 p.m. on Sept. 10.
Glenister said the candle is a symbol of hope and helps show support to bereaved families and those who struggle with suicidal ideation.
“It lets them know that there are people out there that care about them. Suicide is a conversation that you don’t have to be a professional to help somebody, we all have a part to play, and it’s really about just being empathetic and listening.”
The Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin is encouraging the community to continue sharing their reconnection photos throughout the month of September, as part of the entire Suicide Prevention Month.
Photos can be shared on social media using #sacwd2021 or sending the photo and caption by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press