There’s something out there that’s taking the people we know and love. One day you might see someone out and about, laughing and smiling with you, catching up on things, and as little as 24 hours later, that person is just gone, like as if some actual boogeyman came in the night and just took them away.
In a way, it kind of is like a boogeyman, only this one lives in the dark recesses of someone’s mind and constantly shouts at them from within to do something that is so utterly heartbreaking.
The boogeyman’s name is Suicide, and he’s been winning far too many times; enough so that it has become a sad and horrifying trend in this part of the world over the past year.
Since last July alone – the span of one calendar year – there have been six deaths by suicide that happened right in this region. If you choose to include people who used to call this area home and lived elsewhere at the time of their untimely passing, then that number stretches to eight.
We don't know the answers as to why it happens; what we’re left with is only that it just happens. When it comes to suicide, there’s no such thing as answers in terms of pure black and white, and the only constant these days seems to be that there is a level of suffering that some people are just too good at hiding from plain sight.
In the span of the last six weeks or so, I’ve been told the news of three people that I knew who had chosen to end their lives. One was a girl who was also in the media field and had actually managed to overcome some demons, including an eating disorder; one was the youngest brother of a girl who I used to go to school with in Conquest – I can remember seeing him darting around the hallways as a toddler; and the most recent one was someone who lived on a farm just a few minutes south of Conquest.
All three of them ended their lives in the same fashion.
Suicide is starting to become such an issue that you almost stop asking the question of, “Why?” Rather, you start to ask, “What can we do about this?”
My own family isn’t immune from feeling the reverberations left behind due to suicide. One of my uncles – my dad’s youngest brother, and frankly someone I only fleetingly remember because I was quite young – took his own life in 1991 by hanging himself from the Victoria bridge in Saskatoon. These days, that old infrastructure has been enjoying the proverbial 15 minutes of fame as officials have been busy blowing sections of it up, and all sorts of video clips pop up on social media showing the different parts of it coming down. Everyone else looks at that and goes, ‘Cool’. I look at it and go, ‘That’s the bridge where my dad’s brother cashed in his chips.’
Receiving this kind of news typically produces two instinctual gut reactions: one, you say something to the effect of, ‘I just saw them, they were so happy!’ and two, you do ask why, and specifically, you just ask yourself what was hurting them. After one of these most recent suicides, my mom and I were discussing it at the kitchen table one evening, and the question led to, "Where do you turn for help?" At the time, neither of us could think of what kind of mental health programming or therapy might be available locally to turn to.
I’m happy to say that in the time since that kitchen table chat, the local health region has answered the call. There’s going to be a half-day training course on August 14 at the Outlook Health Centre that is 100% free and open to anyone aged 15 years and older. It’s an afternoon program that will coach people on how to look for signs that someone is thinking about suicide and how to direct them to getting the help they need.
It's said that people who take their own lives don't necessarily want to end their lives, they simply want to end their pain. Preventing tragedies such as this is something of a two-way street; those who are suffering in silence do need to feel able to reach out and talk to someone, but *we* need to be more accepting and willing to talk to those who find themselves in that kind of darkness.
If you are suffering, I hope you find the strength to reach out. To someone close, to a health professional, to *anyone*.
I promise you, we're listening.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.