Suicide Prevention Week saves lives

She begins to weep uncontrollably. On her dresser stands a picture of her deceased mother. “Is there any point in living?” she cries, eying the pills on her nightstand.

He walks around miserable and heartbroken. “How could she have dumped me when everything was going perfectly?” he thinks. Fingering the gun inside his coat pocket, he suddenly clutches it tightly.

While there are many factors that contribute to a person’s desire to commit suicide, loss is a major one. which is why Suicide Prevention Week is Feb. 9 to 15.

One place to seek guidance is at Concordia’s Health Services where students who come in with suicidal thoughts undergo an assessment, says Health Educator Owen Moran.

“Several things can happen after the assessment: the person can be referred to one of our mental health professionals or to outside sources, the person may be prescribed medications that are effective in treating problems like depression, [and] a person will receive information about suicide,” he says.

Even though more suicides do not occur because of St. Valentine’s Day, Sandra Simbert, an ex-Action-Suicide employee, says the correlation between suicide and loss is extremely high. Losses include a romantic relationship or friendship, a family member, job/success or health.

Having worked for three years as a telephone volunteer and another three as a part-time supervisor at Action-Suicide Montreal Inc., Simbert is happy she was able to listen to and encourage people, reassuring them help was out there.

“Empowering other people in their time of crisis is always key. As a volunteer, I was in the frontline talking on the phone directly to people. It was nice to hear people call back and say, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t think there’s a salary that can give that satisfaction,” says the urban studies student at Concordia.

A non-profit organization that has been serving Montreal since 1984, Action-Suicide receives about 3,000 calls per day and about 25,000 calls per year. This year, its metro campaign will be advertising not only their organization but also that help is available.

The sad truth is that Quebec has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. From 1998 to 1999, Quebec had the highest suicide rate in Canada – 21.3 per 100,000 people. In 1997, 1,370 people committed suicide in Quebec, 1,071 of who were men.

Whereas men and women both attempt suicide, men are more likely to carry it out. They commit four out of every five suicides, and Quebec men have the highest suicide rate in Canada. Simbert says suicide is highest for men between 20 and 40 years of age.

While men are more likely to use extreme methods such as guns or hanging, women generally use less extreme ones such as pills. Men are also less likely to ask for help and talk about how they are feeling.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, warning signs to keep in mind when trying to determine if a person is suicidal is to notice if he or she talks about suicide, has attempted suicide before, has had recent severe losses, withdraws from friends and social activities, gives away cherished possessions, shows signs of depression and increases alcohol or drug use.

Listening without judging, being proactive by taking away pills, acquiring professional help and reminding him or her help is available may help save a life.

Achsa Ramadeen, a 22-year-old English literature student, strongly believes talking and listening is crucial. “This year I know someone who committed suicide. The family told her that she could wait it out, but she hung herself. People can know what’s going on, but they won’t know how the person is really feeling inside,” she says.

In Moran’s opinion, ways to reduce suicide is through education and awareness, dispelling myths about suicide and providing support through help lines. Spotting and treating depression is also important since 80 per cent of people who commit suicide have a history of depression. He points out that since there are many more resources today, it shows that society sees suicide as a major problem.

In a day and age where the suicide rate only continues to climb, being informed and knowing help is out there is important because it could either save your life or someone else’s. Simbert says the Action-Suicide hotline, in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is there to help.

“I know people are curious about [suicide], but not everyone knows what to do. Part of the campaign this year is that even if you’re worried about something, call,” she says.

The Action-Suicide hotline is 723-4000.

For on-campus help, Concordia’s Health Services is located at 2155 Guy in room ER-407 on the Sir George Williams campus at 848-3565 or in room AD-103 on the Loyola campus at 848-3575.

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