The conversation to raise suicide awareness continued in Red Deer at a public meeting at Red Deer College’s Cenovus Learning Centre on Tuesday night.
It was the second of two community information sessions organized after six teen suicides over the last year were reported online in February by youth trying to bring awareness to the issue.
About 30 people and representatives from community agencies came out to last week’s session organized by Alberta Health Services – Mental Health and Suicide Information and Education Services.
On Tuesday, the number grew to just over 50, likely due to word spreading about the event.
“There certainly is some hyper vigilance I think from parents and community members around suicide so what we’re wanting to do tonight is give people some information about awareness about what to look for and how to intervene,” said Noreen McCallum, program manager with Red Deer Community Addiction and Mental Health, on Tuesday.
A suggestion box was set up at the meeting to gather names of people and groups that want to work to keep suicide awareness alive in the community, she said.
“I think there’s more we can do in the community.”
Alberta Health Services is currently looking into whether or not the rate of teen suicide drastically increased over the past year.
McCallum said so far this year overall referrals to Red Deer Mental Health Centre did increase in January, February and March as it typically does after a long winter. Crisis services are busy, but there hasn’t been an increasing trend.
The public information session included a presentation by Dawne Adkins, adult education co-ordinator, with Suicide Information and Education Services. There was the opportunity to ask questions.
Kelly Karius, the owner of bullying awareness program No Such Thing as a Bully, said it is time in Red Deer, and elsewhere, to promote discussion about suicide, which has been missing.
“Some of that is due to the perception that if we talk about suicide we’ll put the idea into someone’s head. But the reality is pretty much every person has had passive or active suicidal thoughts at one time in their life,” Karius said.
Meetings like this can also help in the healing process, and it wouldn’t hurt to have another session in a few months, she said.
Children or teens who need help and want to talk can call Kids Help Phone toll-free at 1-800-668-6868 or visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.
Or contact Alberta Health Services’ Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642, or other agencies like police, hospital, or counselling centres.