Depression and suicide is a topic that affects all ages and social classes, making them topics of one of the most important conversations to carry on, experts say.
As many people have experienced losses of friends, family members, classmates or colleagues, they can speak to the importance of prevention. In light of another recent loss to the Red Deer community, Suicide Information and Education Services continues to remind citizens there are many supports in place to prevent and cope with depression.
Dawne Adkins of Suicide Information and Education Services (SIES) said it is always a good idea to be holding conversations and reducing the stigma of dealing with depression and suicide. She and the other members of the organization do this through various community outreach programs made for all ages.
“Over my career, I’ve certainly seen the stigma reducing in terms of not being afraid to say the word suicide. People are recognizing there is help out there and there is no shame in asking for it – that is huge,” Adkins said.
“It’s huge to send the message that it’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t matter if it’s for math homework or helping with stress or helping with thoughts of suicide. There is no shame in any of that.”
She said most people either know someone who has a mental health concern or who has had thoughts of suicide, or both.
“It’s not as foreign to people as it once was,” she said.
“That’s not because there’s been an increase in either mental health or suicide cases, it’s just that the barrier has been removed so that we can talk about it.”
Suicide Information & Education Services offers a wide variety of programs, from in-school speaking sessions targeted specifically to age groups, to adult employer/employee training, to adult coping skills and support groups. These programs run all year and are easily accessible for anyone seeking information.
“We do offer support for adults in terms of both training – either a group of staff, or volunteers or any kind of group – and a support group for people who have lost people to suicide, which runs weekly. We also have outreach for people that need help either supporting a family member, a friend or with their own thoughts. We are always available for that,” Adkins said.
“We also have our Community Helpers Program that identifies kids as supporting, caring individuals in their peer groups and we give them support and training. We’re one of approximately 14 sites across Alberta that deliver that provincial program,” she explained.
“We go into the schools, survey the kids, ask them who they talk to and we invite the kids who have been identified to take that training. We try to keep it as fun as possible while learning some new skills.”
The information services are age appropriate and grow in depth accordingly. The programs teach kids skills from open communication to coping with personal feelings and seeking help.
“The age kind of directs us in terms of what we provide. For the youngest kids, we talk to them about coping strategies and going to a trusted adult. We talk to them about their problems and how to cope with loss by using different formats and activities like colouring and stories. It’s to get them talking and communicating with us, and getting them used to sharing information,” Adkins said.
“By about Grade 6 we start talking to them about suicide. We talk to them about the warning signs and still discuss the importance of going to a trusted adult because they can’t handle it alone. We also get the kids used to saying the word suicide and understanding that it does affect people and can affect people at any stage of their life. We explain that it doesn’t mean they’re crazy or that they’ve done something wrong.”
Adkins said it is important for children and adults alike to have people in their world they can speak to about suicide.
“We want people to be as comfortable as possible when opening up and sharing their feelings, especially with their own feelings or those of a friend.”
The local distress line number is 1-800-SUICIDE (782-2433) and is available 24 hours a day. The organization is available by direct contact at 403-342-4966.