A Lifeline Goes Live Across the Country

photo of people s hands

Anyone who is considering ending their life needs to know that society doesn’t want them to. We won’t be better off without you. Your brain is lying to you if that’s what it’s saying. That’s depression or addiction or mental pain talking, and it’s not the truth.

Canada’s new national suicide prevention hotline launched last week. Anyone in crisis or who’s worried about someone else can call or text 988. And they want you to use 988 even if you’re unsure or having suicidal thoughts and not taking any action. They say they won’t turn anyone away. Someone will talk to you about it. The service is managed by CAMH (Canadian Association for Mental Health) and runs 24/7/365 in English and French.

Who chooses suicide? Successful people. People who believe they’re failures. Young people, old people, married people, single people, the rich and the poor. More men than women. More LGBTQ+ than straight. And more people who have had someone close to them die by suicide. There isn’t one personality profile that’s more prone to suicide. However, experts say someone who demonstrates neuroticism is also at risk. Neuroticism includes a lot of negative personality traits like incessant complaining, and trouble dealing with stress.

About a dozen people a day die by suicide in Canada. That’s 4,500 a year. Each of those people’s deaths has an impact on many more people: friends, family, colleagues, all wondering whether there was something they could have done to keep alive. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people here. (Unintentional injuries ranked first.)

The US, UK, and Australia, are already using 988 for suicide prevention. Callers can give as much or as little personal information they want. But I’m pretty sure that privacy is the least of someone’s concerns. The bigger issue is making a call for help. Troubles seem insurmountable but they never really are. That’s more lies from the brain.

I recently finished one of the best books on mental illness that I’ve ever read. But be forewarned: Maria Bamford’s, Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult starts off at a weirdness factor of 11. (That’s what prevents my full endorsement. It’s just so…weird!) She does reveal a lot about her standup comedy career, but she delves deeply into her breakdowns and hospitalizations. The final chapter of the book is the best one, as she offers advice to people who are suicidal or seriously mentally ill, and those who love them.

Sometimes, when someone we know threatens suicide, it’s not taken seriously. Especially if they’ve done it before. But mental health experts say it’s a warning sign we need to heed. Here’s a page of tips about when to get help and what to watch for.

There aren’t enough supports for people with mental health issues, but one thing is clear. We need each other. People really do need people. During the pandemic, isolation was hard on our mental health. Suicide talk, thoughts, and rates went up. We need to intervene if we think someone is at risk. It might be embarrassing, or intrusive, or even unwelcome – but momentary discomfort is a lot better than mourning them and wishing we had done something to show we cared.

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