After trying to take his own life, Wesley Jones struggled to obtain mental health supports. Based on his own experience, the Alberta man is trying to start a suicide survivors support group to ensure others don’t fall through the gaps.
At 22 years old, Jones attempted suicide. He was subsequently treated at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and then the Alberta Hospital.
“I spent two weeks at the Alberta Hospital,” Jones says. “When I got out, they were like, ‘OK, we booked you a therapist and your screening is in three months.’ I said, ‘How am I supposed to make it three months? I’m still not OK.'”
Jones called the Edmonton Mental Health Association and asked if they had any group supports for suicide survivors that he could access while he waited, but Jones says he was told those groups just didn’t exist. He felt abandoned.
“Initially, if you’re like, ‘I want to die because my life sucks,’ after you attempt, and people know you attempted — that’s a lot of extra stuff. You’re like, ‘Why would I not want to get out now?'”
So Jones decided he would start his own group where survivors can learn coping skills for the future. He says it’s the first of its kind in Canada.
“Hopefully, by the end, they’ve recovered and they’re facing towards hope. They want to live for the sake of living and not for the sake of not dying.”
Each year in Alberta, 500 people successfully commit suicide. Petal Murti is a registered psychologist who has lost two clients to suicide herself. So when Jones reached out, she knew she wanted to be involved and help break the silence.
Murti, along with a colleague at Rivers Edge Counselling Centre in St. Albert, will be overseeing the group classes.
She says it’s within that first three-month period that people are most at risk for attempting suicide again and falling into a downward spiral.
“A lot of times, people come out of hospital having attempted and they’re really disappointed that they’re still alive. The pain is still there. The things that have led them to that, that caused that struggle, are still there. And they still have to face it.”
The free support group will meet once a week for two months straight, for an hour-and-a-half each time. Murti says each intake will be limited to a maximum of eight participants.
“In any sort of group setting, if you can connect with another individual or connect with a group of individuals, the aspect of feeling alone kind of reduces. You start to feel that you’re not alone in your journey, and that there’s others experiencing the same thing.”
Jones believes having this type of group therapy would have been beneficial when he was struggling.
“I think the biggest issues we know with people that attempt suicide are things like shame, guilt and feeling really alone — like nobody cares about you. I think just being with other people that can openly admit that they’ve attempted too, that’s really important. It’s like, ‘I’m not the only person that’s felt this bad.'”
Participants have to be over 18 and have other supports in place, like counselling. For more information, contact Rivers Edge.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways for getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues.