Thursday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). On this day, people gather all over the world to support suicide prevention, remember the lives lost to suicide, and to comfort and strengthen our connection with one another.
Annually hosted by the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), this year’s theme is ‘Reaching Out and Saving Lives,’ which has multiple meanings for this important initiative.
The event is open to everyone, especially “those who have been touched by suicide or mental health struggles,” says Sabine Mendez, coordinator with Chilliwack Healthier Community.
“We should all have mental wellness as a priority in our lives,” Mendez continues. Everyone faces challenges, and World Suicide Prevention Day promotes healthy, positive ways to manage them.
Every year, more than 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide. Chilliwack is not immune to suicide’s consequential reach.
Though B.C. Coroners Reports conclude that Fraser has the lowest regional rate of suicides in the province, there are an average of 500 suicides in B.C. each year.
Many social, economic, cultural and psychiatric risk factors are involved with suicide. Mental health disorders (particularly depression), as well as experiencing conflict, disaster, violence and isolation are strongly associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Addressing the issue of isolation is paramount to this year’s WSPD theme.
“Feeling disconnected is one of the biggest problems in our culture,” Mendez explains. “There’s a mentality that prioritizes independence and “I don’t need anyone” attitudes, but it’s not healthy to be alone.”
A sense of belonging, through family, clubs, faith, work or otherwise, is essential. Having someone to talk to and can be life-saving.
“A lot of us may know people who we suspect may be struggling, but we’re uncomfortable asking how they’re feeling” in a genuine, intentional manner.
This event, and all that value mental health, provide avenues to eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental health. “We want to make it as acceptable to talk about mental health as it is to bring up the pain in your hip” Mendez explains.
“I like to think that grief and sadness can be offset even a little by the sharing of annual gatherings such as this one,” said Jenz Malloway, Aboriginal Support and Crisis Intervention Coordinator at Sto:lo Nation Health, in a press release.
Thursday’s event will include a variety of free activities for the public, including expressive arts like rock painting and weaving cedar roses. There will also be smudging rituals, therapeutic touch and Reiki treatments, and various workshops that address sacred traditions, communication skills and mental health.
One of the most visually impactful elements of the event will be the Clootie tree. A Celtic tradition, community members tie a piece of cloth to the Clootie tree as a symbol of remembrance to someone that they’ve lost.
The event takes place September 10 from 1:30 to 6 p.m. at Sto:lo Nation grounds (7201 Vedder Road), beginning in the Long House. Attendees will receive a map and schedule to guide their afternoon.
At the end of the day, there will be a free dinner as well as draws for prizes and passes to the 7 p.m. showing of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The film will be followed by a question and answer period to provide direction and support to those who seek it.
1-800-SUICIDE is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.