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Destigmatizing suicide could help those in need: mental health advocate

Although Canadians have grown accustomed to being extra-cautious when it comes to physical health — through sanitizing our hands, wearing masks and social distancing — the mental health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic are often overlooked.

Former NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch, who spent most of his career with the Vancouver Canucks, currently works as a public speaker and advocate for mental health.

Hirsch told Global News the most important thing we can do right now is to check in with our loved ones.

Corey Hirsch. The Canadian Press

“Send a text, do a Zoom, a FaceTime, Houseparty — whatever app you use to reach out and connect with people, that make such a massive difference,” said Hirsch, who battled depression during his own career.

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“If you know someone that’s elderly, that’s living alone, that is a really, really tough time for these people. Maybe they can’t get out and even get groceries. Maybe they’re just sitting there isolated all day by themselves

“That is a massive recipe for depression. So let’s help these people.”

Hirsch said it’s difficult to know if your friends or family members are struggling, because the pandemic means many of us are working from home and not seeing each other in person, but there are a few warning signs to watch out for.

“I’ve got some friends that I know on social media who post once every couple of days or they post every day. All of a sudden they go silent for three or four days. That’s a sign to me something’s up,” he said.

“Texting or calling disappears and withdraws. Something’s up. You need to reach out and talk to them.”

Hirsch, who calls himself ‘living proof that it gets better’, said one step in the right direction would be for society to destigmatize the topic of suicide — to openly and honestly discuss the subject to help those who may be struggling.

Read more: Manitoba splits health portfolio, province has new minister of mental health

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“If you think somebody is thinking of harming themselves, there is no shame in asking.

“We’ve come to be a society that’s scared to ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts — that we might be the ones to push them over the edge.

“If they are thinking that way… we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. But when we push those thoughts that people have even further down and bury them even further under the carpet, we make people feel even more ashamed for having those thoughts.”

Click to play video 'True North Youth Foundation supports youth mental health' True North Youth Foundation supports youth mental health
True North Youth Foundation supports youth mental health – Jan 26, 2021

Manitoba suicide prevention & support line: 1-877-435-7170

Klinic Crisis Line: (204) 786-8686

Seniors abuse support line: 1-888-896-7183

Mood disorders association  (204) 786-0987

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Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Province of Manitoba Morneau Shepell 1-844-218-2955

Outside of Manitoba:

Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566