It’s the most severe outcome of mental illness and for most of us, it’s not easy to talk about suicide. In Canada, 11 people die by suicide every day. That’s 4,000 people every year.
Thursday is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health launched the “Not Suicide, Not Today” campaign.
CAMH, which is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, is calling on all of us to make a pledge to help.
“Our goal is that if we can work together, if we can encourage people to seek help, if we have time to make new discoveries, then every day will be the day we don’t lose someone to suicide,” said Dr. Juveria Zaheer, CAMH psychiatrist and researcher.
As a psychiatrist in CAMH’s emergency department, Dr. Zaheer often sees people on the worst day of their life, such as people like Stacy-Ann Buchanan, who told Global News she wrote her will at the age of 29 after battling anxiety and depression.
“The breaking point came when I felt like I had no one to talk to. My dad always said to me: drink some tea, read your Bible, that will get rid of everything,” Buchanan said.
The actress and documentary maker said that what ultimately helped her was realizing that she was not alone and understanding that she was struggling with stigmas around mental health “especially within my community — the Black community.”
Since mental health doesn’t discriminate, the CAMH campaign put a focus on diversity and inclusion, seeking input from a variety of people of different backgrounds with lived experience.
“The journey in mental health is understanding that it isn’t your fault and that mental health is health,” said mental health advocate Mark Farrant.
Farrant’s journey began when he was a juror for a first-degree murder trial.
When he couldn’t get the graphic images and testimony out of his head, he was later diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and depression.
Like Buchannan, Farrant said he put on a brave face and pretended everything was fine, until things got extremely dark, living with intense shame and guilt over having thoughts about suicide.
“I had a responsibility to myself to get better,” said Farrant, who began to commit himself to activism and delivering a message of hope to others.
Today, Farrant and Buchanan are two of the many faces behind the CAMH campaign “Not Suicide, Not Today” and through their advocacy, they hope to prove suicide is preventable and recovery is possible.