Suicide is one of the most painful and most stigmatized topics for people in any culture.
But discussion is key to improving rates of suicide, according to Jolene Lindsey, Interior Health’s youth concurrent disorder case manager.
She noticed how shunned the topic was when she set up an information booth at Northills Mall during last year’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
“Nobody approached the booth, people didn’t want to be seen looking at the booth. It was just a very ignored topic,” she said. “I sat there thinking, ‘We just need so much more than this.’ ”
Her office decided to bring the issue out into the open on Tuesday during the first World Suicide Prevention Day community gathering at Riverside Park.
The event attracted a dozen information booths from groups as diverse as the Boys and Girls Club, the Kamloops Gay and Lesbian Alliance and aboriginal agencies.
It also attracted individuals personally touched by suicide.
“I consider a person who commits suicide as a victim, not a low-life like some people think,” said Kathryn Robertson, whose 38-year-old friend, tormented by a difficult workplace, killed himself.
She carried an anti-bullying message on a large placard at the gathering, saying some major corporations turn a blind eye to how they contribute to employee depression.
“These places, human resources is more like in-human resources,” she said.
Families, as well as workplaces, play a critical role in helping individuals develop the coping skills to face life's unavoidable stresses, according to the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
“We all have a role to play,” said Dr. Suzane Renaud, association president.
The lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer segment of the population has the highest rates of suicide in society, according to several international studies.
Brian Husband, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Kamloops, wanted to highlight their plight.
“It’s due to denial, depression, repression, bullying,” he said. “When you cannot express yourself . . . and you repress it, it causes depression. Once you’ve got depression, then you’ve lost hope. Once you’ve lost hope, suicide presents itself as a solution.”
Ignoring mental illness can also be a precursor to suicide.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association estimates that 90 per cent of the 3,500 Canadians who die by suicide each year have a diagnosable mental illness.
“(The stigma) is still very much there,” said Lindsey. “It prevents people from accessing help and reaching out. But the more we talk about it, the less at risk people are.”
Participants made their own kites or added a ribbon to a community kite to represent lost loved ones.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention chose the kite to symbolize a lost person flying high above, with the string connecting to those left behind.
“Let us see the person for all their brilliance, like these brightly coloured kites, fluttering high in the sky,” states the association.