Every year, one million people worldwide—including 4,000 Canadians—commit suicide, an average of one death every 40 seconds. As part of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) is highlighting the importance of changing cultural attitudes about mental illness and suicidal behaviour in order to prevent suicide, one of the world’s leading causes of death.
The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is “Stigma: A major barrier to suicide prevention”, emphasizing the fact that stigmatizing suicide inhibits efforts to prevent it. The stigma against suicide contributes to reducing community awareness, restricting the efforts of suicidal individuals to seek help, and negatively affecting the staffing of appropriate services.
“The combination of stigma, denial and fear sometimes prevents individuals and their families from seeking help as quickly as possible after detecting early warning signs of mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse,” says Dr. Michael Bond, JGH Chief of Psychiatry. “Suicide is devastating, so it is important for everyone to feel that they have access to help—from family doctors, CLSCs, psychiatrists and emergency departments—so that there are minimal barriers to seeking support.”
Some important warning signs for suicide include a sudden change in mood or behaviour and a sense of helplessness, expressing the wish to end their life, withdrawing from people and activities, participating in risky or self-destructive activities, and a change in sleeping and eating patterns. If someone you know admits they are thinking of suicide or behaving in a way that makes you think they are suicidal, do not play it down or ignore the situation. Seek immediate professional help and support.
If anyone needs help, Suicide Action Montreal offers support services, crisis workers and monitoring for people who are at risk of committing suicide, as well as for their friends and family and for people affected by suicide. Simply call 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553) to reach the intervention hotline, which is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The JGH Department of Psychiatry also offers a full range of assessment, consultation and treatment services to patients and their families who are affected by mental illness that can lead to suicide. The department has five clinical services including Adult In- and Out-Patient Services, as well as Child, Emergency and Geriatric Psychiatry. In addition to providing ongoing teaching and training for staff and medical students, the department’s research division continues to promote research in cultural psychiatry, psychosocial aspects of mental health and medical illness, and the etiology and treatment of mental illness.
September 9, 2013