World Suicide Prevention Day – We all have a role to play

Emily Milton, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Counsellor, Connect Mental Health Counselling Services
Kerry O’Grady-Roberts, MEd, RP, CCC 
Counsellor, Connect Mental Health Counselling Services

Did you know that one in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide? (1) Every suicide has a significant effect on those around them, but it’s an issue that impacts all of us. 

People of all genders and ages can be at risk of suicide and mental health challenges. Within the Deaf community, the experience of language deprivation can contribute to feelings of isolation and depression (2). Ensuring that mental health services are accessible and culturally appropriate is key to meeting the mental health needs of both Deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Social gathering restrictions and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic created additional challenges and stress for Deaf and hard of hearing people. The Connect Mental Health Counselling Services at Canadian Hearing Services felt the impact of this pandemic through a 34% increase in client visits over the course of 2020. The data gathered by Canadian Hearing Services also revealed a troubling trend for clients experiencing a mental health crisis because of the stresses associated with the pandemic. This included increased risk for self-harm and suicide, substance abuse and addictions, and symptoms related to anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. Over this period of time, Canadian Hearing Services worked diligently to ensure our Deaf and hard of hearing community had access to the counselling services they needed at a time when it was crucial to their well-being.

Creating Hope through Action

On September 10, people from more than 50 countries come together to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. This year’s theme, Creating Hope through Action, asks us to work together to recognize the impacts of suicide and to help prevent it. Prevention can seem overwhelming, but even small actions can make a difference. So how can we as individuals be part of the global effort to help reduce suicides? We all have a role to play!

Some ways you can help include:

  • recognizing signs of suicide risk in ourselves and others
  • learning strategies to better care for our own mental health 
  • knowing which prevention resources are available 

How do I recognize if someone is at risk of suicide?

IS PATH WARM graphic - suicide prevention toolRecognizing when someone is in distress or at risk of suicide is a crucial tool for prevention. A helpful way to remember the warning signs of suicide is known as “IS PATH WARM,” which was developed by The American Association of Suicidology. 

If we notice these signs in someone, we can support them by being non-judgemental, offering support, and ensuring they are not left alone. Although it is a difficult topic, it is important to be direct and ask whether someone is thinking of suicide and whether they have created a plan. The opportunity to talk about suicide can bring relief to a person who may be suffering with suicidal thoughts (3). 

If you see others who may be struggling with mental health challenges, reach out to them to offer understanding and hope. Be open to sharing your own struggles and recovery with others to help break the stigma of mental health.

Where can I get help?

Also, be sure to take care of your own mental health and reach out for support should you need it. Canadian Hearing Services (CHS) is here for you! We offer culturally appropriate and accessible support for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals and their families. CHS Counsellors can help you build self-care strategies such as exercise, sleeping and eating well, socializing with friends/family, getting involved with your community, doing things you enjoy, and setting boundaries, so you don’t take on too much.

To learn more about CHS’s free Connect Mental Health Counselling Services, visit: https://www.chs.ca/service/connect-mental-health-counselling-services

Are you, or someone you know, in crisis and in need of support?

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs support, visit Distress Centres and Crisis Lines across Ontario at https://www.chs.ca/page/distress-centres-and-crisis-lines-ontario, for a list of crisis mental health resources.

Let’s work together on suicide prevention!

Sources:
(1)    International Association of Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from:
https://www.iasp.info/wspd2021/
(2)    Humphries, T., Kushalnagar, P., Mathur, G., Napoli, D. J., Padden, C., Rathmann, C., & Smith, S. (2016). Avoiding linguistic neglect of Deaf children. Social Service Review, 90(4), 589-619.
(3)    Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. (2021). I’m Concerned About Someone. Retrieved from https://suicideprevention.ca/im-concerned-about-someone