September is National Suicide Prevention month, but really, the problem is international. Suicide has been a taboo subject since its origin. The first person to die by suicide was Queen Sheeba in the 10th Century. She swallowed toxic traditional leaves to get rid of her suffering.
Suicide has been an issue for centuries, but only in recent years has it been recognized as a global tragedy. Suicide doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, race, or other factors. The youngest recorded person to ever die by suicide was a six year old girl named Samantha Kuberski. The child tied a belt to the bar of an unused crib and hung herself after being sent to her room because of a disagreement with her mother. When interviewed, the family said the little girl knew the dangers of hanging herself.
In Wales in 2010, there was an epidemic of suicides by hanging affecting all ranges of people, including children. There were rumors of a “suicide cult”. It became a frantic task of parents trying to keep their children alive. The police asked the media to stop covering the incidents in an attempt to slow down the spread, but little was done to help suicidal young people. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking this was a terrible thing that happened long ago, in a far away continent. We have reached the point where an epidemic of suicides are now taking our youth in North America.
Here are just a few of the statistics around suicide I find truly frightening:
Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, which is one every 40 seconds. There are many more attempts.
It is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
In 2016, 79% of suicides occurred in low-to-middle income countries.
In 2016, suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 18th leading cause of death.
It is thought that for every one person who died by suicide there are 20 attempts.
Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women.
Firearms accounted for 51% of all suicides in 2016.
These statistics are a far cry from the numbers we had 20 years ago. The most well known suicide is Robin Williams. I think what made that one such a shock was that he was, in my opinion, one of the funniest men alive. Not all signs are obvious to the outside world. For those on the outside, it never makes any sense. I have had a few attempts, one of which was almost considered successful, but God was not ready to bring me back yet. I will go more into the head space of someone who decides suicide is the only option. Of course, I can not explain everyone’s reasons, but I can tell you what I went through and there are some similarities. For right now I want to tell you a story that hit me very hard. I think I have talked about it before but it can never repeated enough.
I was at my favorite second-hand store when I saw a woman standing, admiring a dining room set. I stopped to tell her how lovely it was. She said she had just purchased it because she was trying to do things that would make herself feel a little better. This woman had just lost her 14 year old daughter to suicide. I thought I was going to physically fall over I was hit so hard by that fact. She continued to tell me the story which seemed to get worse as it went. After the woman lost her daughter, a friend of her daughter’s was over visiting when the young girl received a phone call that they had found her boyfriend. Dead. Suicide. Within a 3 month period.
The absolute scariest about her story was how our medical system dealt with her daughter. Before she died she had been to emergency four different times for attempts. The last time, that mother begged them to keep her daughter because soon she would not be in there for an attempt, she would be in the morgue. They said they had no room. She asked what would happen if she left the child there. They said child services would be called and her daughter would be taken away from her. The mother was left with no choice but to return home with her daughter. One week later, the mother’s fears were realized and her child died by suicide. Who was at fault in this story? Who should we be blaming?
I know first hand that the mental health system, at least in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are pathetic on a good day! I was interviewed once and was happy to announce that if I ever met Justin Trudeau (our Prime Minister) he would get a puck in the face that would land him on his skinny ass! Our provinces should be ashamed of themselves when it comes to what they do to help people who suffer from a mental illness. I spent 20 years in the system and I can say with the utmost of sincerity that no one ever did a damn thing to help me. But hurt me? Oh, they had ample talent in that area.
Until we change our system, we are going to keep losing our kids. We all push the fact that people need to reach out for help, that it’s how you survive. Well you bunch of arseholes, maybe it would be a good idea to have some sort of help available when people do reach out. Ending up on a waiting list is not good enough. “Can you wait about three months to attempt suicide because we will have a bed for you then”. My psychiatrist is at Mental Health and there is a sign on the reception window that reads “wait time for the IWK for patients until their first appointment is 89 days. Is the 89 supposed to make it feel shorter? The IWK is our hospital for children. They are there for the sole purpose of taking care of our children. Physical issues get priority over mental ones. Sometimes I wonder if we have moved forward at all. Our health system sure has not.
This is my whole purpose in being a speaker, advocating for mental health. I want to yell and scream until someone listens. I want to cause trouble and encourage people to start doing the same until someone, anyone in power listens. We have to show people that suicide is a plague of the mind and it is spreading as such. We cannot keep hiding it under the carpet. Talk to kids. This is not like the birds and the bees where you can just let them learn through other kids. Parents need to be talking to their kids. If they are not vulnerable, then they have to know there is someone they can tell if they suspect someone else is. Talk about it. The longer we keep it in the dark, the longer we are terrorized by it. Bring it into the light and like all other demons, it will lose strength and then with a combined effort, we can send it back where it belongs. We can make a difference with our words. Use them to save our kids.