September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, an initiative co-sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO). It is an annual call to action to individuals and organizations to prevent suicide.
This year, the theme “Suicide Prevention: Reaching Out and Saving Lives” encourages us all to consider the role that offering support plays in combating suicide. Reaching out to those who may be struggling or may have become disconnected from others and offering them support really can be a life-saving act.
According to the WHO, there were over 800,000 deaths by suicide last year, roughly the equivalent of one suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death globally, accounting for 1.4% of all deaths in 2012.
Canada is not immune to this silent epidemic of preventable deaths, losing just under 4,000 of our citizens to suicide annually. That’s eleven Canadians every single day, eight of whom are men and boys. To put these numbers into perspective, more Canadians die by suicide every year than by car accident, murder, drowning, HIV/AIDS and war… combined.
Locally, approximately 70 Ottawans end their lives in any given year. An estimated 1,500 more make an attempt. The Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region fields no less than 50,000 calls annually through its volunteer-run, 24/7 crisis line.
We all know someone whose life has been touched by suicide. Or in the very least, someone who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide and to whom we should be reaching out.
For its part, the City of Ottawa marked World Suicide Prevention Day this year by launching the SafeTALK training program for its employees, a municipal first in Canada. SafeTALK is a 3-hour workshop that helps participants learn how to help guide a conversation about suicide and how to ask someone about suicidal thoughts.
Organizations such as the Distress Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Association periodically put on SafeTALK workshops open to the public. More in-depth ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) training sessions are also on offer.
Learning about — and practicing — suicide prevention is not a one-day annual event. Be sure to check out suicide prevention resources available in our community. A good starting point is the Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition website at www.ottawasuicideprevention.com.
Knowing how to reach out may just one day help you save a life.