Need Help? Visit our new website, www.mymentalhealth.ca.
The Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary focuses on prevention, because prevention is the only solution to suicide. I recently spent a morning with Mara G. the Executive Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP), a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association here in Alberta. Our conversation focused on the need for a greater awareness of the high incidence of suicide in our province. Suicide is consistently a leading cause of death among Albertans. Suicide claims more lives annually than other more openly discussed issues such as motor vehicle collisions and homicides. Alberta typically has a higher rate of suicide than the national average. Approximately 500 Albertans die by suicide each year.
Mara stated that there is a need for a “champion” to represent and promote suicide prevention on a provincial level; someone who would also unite the many grassroots, community suicide prevention initiatives currently in place. “CSP focuses on prevention, because prevention is the only solution to suicide.”
The CSP educates people with the information, knowledge and skills necessary to respond to the risk of suicide.
Information you can use right now!
If you are in crisis now please call any of the crisis line numbers listed below or dial the local emergency telephone number (often 911) in your area.
You can also call if you are not in crisis, seeking additional information.
Depression and Suicide
Centre for Suicide Prevention
Frequently Asked Questions
ASIST – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training
Teen Suicide Resource Kit
Survivor Support (Support for those bereaved by suicide)
Youth at Risk Information for Professionals
Annual Report 2014 (PDF)
The Government of Alberta has a range of supports available for Albertans who need help during the Christmas season. The Government of Alberta has a range of supports available for Albertans who need help during the Christmas season.
Families experience more stress during the holiday season for a variety of reasons – financial strain, time spent with family members who may be abusive or even just the pressure to be happy during a time of personal vulnerability.
Government-hosted phone lines offer support to Albertans who may be experiencing difficulties.
- The Family Violence Info Line provides a chat option between noon and 8 p.m. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 170 languages at 310-1818.
- The Bullying Help Line provides a chat option between noon and 8 p.m. Phone support is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages at 1-888-456-2323.
- A Kinship Care Inquiry Phone Line was recently established to provide information, help and support in a variety of languages at 1-844-644-1329. Kinship care places children who can’t be with their biological parents with family or close friends to help the child remain connected to their culture and support systems.
- The Child Abuse Hotline has added a translation service so help is available in more than 200 languages at 1-800-387-5437.
- The Income Support Contact Centre will remain available over the holidays for emergency basic needs assistance at 1-866-644-5135.
The Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 will also be available to offer help for mental health concerns for Albertans.
A tour of CMHA Central Region It was my pleasure to visit Trish M. the Executive Director of CMHA Central Region (Red Deer) last week. CMHA Central Region provides a variety of excellent programs in support of individuals and families impacted by mental health and addictions issues. A highlight for me was the opportunity to visit the Buffalo Apartments located in a historic hotel building in downtown Red Deer.
The Buffalo Apartments are owned and rented to tenants by Potters Hands Housing. The 39-unit complex supports tenants using a Housing First model. Individuals with a history of homelessness and addictions can move directly off the street into permanent, affordable housing. 24-hour staffing is provided by CMHA
The Buffalo uses a philosophy called “Housing First”. Simply said, Housing First moves individuals immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their own apartments. Intake Coordinators from the agencies who make up the Red Deer Housing Team work with individuals on the streets or in shelter and present housing options to them including the Buffalo. Housing First is the evidence based practice used through out Alberta in alignment with the Government of Alberta’s Plan for Alberta, a 10 year plan to end homelessness in Alberta.
People living at The Buffalo, have the opportunity to work with support staff. Staff at The Buffalo help tenants with day-to-day necessities like doing laundry, cooking nutritious meals, and cleaning their apartments. Staff may also help tenants find meaningful activities, volunteer opportunities, or employment opportunities. Staff assist tenants to access health services (such as dental, medical, psychiatric services).
Buffalo Apartments Tenant’s Association has been an ongoing collaboration (for the past 2 years) and has grown over the past year to include an average of 10-13 (about 30%) of the residents at monthly meetings where staff support tenants in discussing challenges and concerns, establishing guidelines for for the “community”, planning activities to engage each other and the community, and advocating for themselves.
To donate to the work of CMHA Central Region click HERE
The affection of man’s best friend helped me to survive and face a better day…
By Dennis Anderson
Many people have made their life’s work, or at least have committed part of their lives to becoming mental health professionals, and volunteers. For those of us striving for mental health, along with our friends and family, we are grateful to them for their dedication.
There are, however, others that help – and sometimes a very great deal – which have no mental health training, no drugs to disseminate, or cognitive therapy to impart. But because of their natural dedication, unquestioning love, and non-judgmental nature, they can sometimes help more than the hard-working people in the mental health community.
These “others” usually have four legs or sometimes even a beak. One of the great ironies of humanity, is that sometimes the human ability to develop complex language to communicate makes it more difficult for our true feelings to be clearly understood. We all know there are a number of ways to interpret “I love you” or even “I hate you.” Our intricate social system dictates modes of dress, ways of speaking, and a system ofacting with which to “judge” people. This can increase our insecurity and our lack offeelings of worthiness. When we need to see a positive reflection of ourselves, we need to understand why we are worth something and are cared for.
This writer is one of those people who tries to volunteer to help others with mental health challenges, but I know that for many, an animal can do more than I am able to. I know this for a fact because my suicide attempt that occurred decades ago was stopped by a dog.
I was a youth that had a less than an ideal childhood. Unfortunately, there still are, and were too many of us. At the age of eleven, I was convinced that I was worthless and that no one loved me. Life was hell and any view of a future seemed blurry and without any enticement. The sorry state of my mental health meant I could not tell the difference between the nightmares of sleep and the true horror of being awake.
I remember watching a TV show showing a woman who killed herself by jumping off a bridge. The peaceful flowing water appealed to me – especially the peaceful part – and I packaged up what little there was of my life. I went to a nearby bridge, determined that the pain would end.
Luckily for me, the household German Sheppard tagged along, and as I put my foot on the rail of the bridge to jump, Sally pulled at my pant leg and tore my jeans. I looked down to yell at her and suddenly realized that something cared if I lived or died.
This began my new sense of reality. Now, I knew when I was awake because Sally was there to stand beside me, no matter what daylight brought. She showed me affection and I began to know that it was night time when I was without her.
For many, just having the affection of an animal keeps them stable, and some would say sane. It is true that for others more is needed. That is why some 16 years ago I started the Chemo Project named after the dog that helped me through 14 years of political life. The program developed ways our mental health practitioners and volunteers, along with animal friends, could help those with mental health challenges.
Others are also doing great work based on this concept. The Dream Catcher program headed by psychologist Eileen Bona is one. The Northern Alberta Pet Therapy Society and equine therapy are others in the Edmonton area, and still more are scattered around the world.
For some, life has not given them an affinity for animals. No approach or therapy will work for all, but I encourage everyone to look at both two and four-legged friends for support. Even today, for me, no matter what title or honour I hold, coming home to embrace one of my feline friends gives me more of a feeling of love and worth than almost anything else.
Dennis Anderson is a former Alberta Cabinet Minister, current Consul General for Thailand and mental health advocate. He is a Director of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t mean your life is over… By Austin Mardon
Expectations – we all have them.
We have expectations about how our lives will be; about how our children’s lives will be. As children we dream about being astronauts or firemen; I know I did. I came from a family of academics. My father was a professor, and his father was a professor too. One of my grandmother’s was among the first female graduates from Cornel University. I didn’t spend my free time practicing with a hockey stick hoping to one day play for the Oilers. I spent my play time in the library. My family expected me to become a professor too. Anything less was a failure.
My wife was a jock. She played every sport available to girls, and then some. She took singing lessons and music lessons on a variety of instruments. Those lessons were not to prepare her for professional sports or a career on the stage; they were instead intended to keep her as busy as possible. She had always been very bright, but so precocious that she was very difficult to keep up with. Her parents’ expectations were for her to become a doctor or a lawyer. The expectations of her family meant that anything less than the top of her class, or first place, was failure.
I became ill with schizophrenia while in graduate school. My wife was a young attorney when she became disabled. By this time, I was supposed to be a full professor and my wife a full partner, or even a judge. The one thing most people never expect is to become disabled in their prime. Both our families’ expectations were crushed; our expectations were crushed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone tell my wife what a shame it is that she wasted her education. For some people, not meeting expectations means a life wasted.
I don’t believe that. I don’t believe any life is wasted. All life is precious and entitled to equal dignity. The problem with expectations is that it is rare that we ever reach them. Life is too unpredictable. Humans are too unpredictable. We can have goals and dreams and plans for our lives, or the lives of our children, but sometimes life happens to us while we are making other plans.
I’m asked to talk to the parents of those who have been recently diagnosed with a serious mental illness. When a mother learns her child has schizophrenia, all of her hopes for the future of her child go out the window. Mothers plan for their children to go to college, have a career, get married and have children of their own. They fear their future will be filled with taking care of a disabled adult child for the rest of their lives. I try to help them understand that while the expectations they had may no longer come to pass, this does not mean that their son or daughter can’t have a full, productive life.
When we married, my wife told me that all she expected of me was to be as happy and healthy as I was capable of. With many mental illnesses, all we can expect is stability, not a complete recovery or cure. That doesn’t mean a wasted life, it means a changed life. It means the search for a new meaning to our lives. That’s one of the best things in life though, the search. We are all travelers. The key is to focus on the trip and not the destination.
Austin Mardon has authored 242 peer reviewed publications and several dozen books. He was the first person with schizophrenia to be awarded the Order of Canada and the Medal of Honor by the Canadian Medical Association. He can be reached at email@example.com, www.austinmardon.org.
Let’s consider both sides of a preventable tragedy….
Another day, and another story on the news about someone who has committed a horrific act. The stabbings at the Loblaw facility scare us, the randomness of it. People, who should be safe at work, never made it home. Our hearts go out to the wounded, to the traumatized, to the widows and orphans. There will be public funerals, public mourning, and public grief.Yet, there is very private grief as well. Days later, there are follow up stories with the “S” word. Another family is grieving. This family will not receive condolences.They will instead have to hide. This is the family of the perpetrator. Their fight started long ago. They have fought the mental health system and lost. They tried to get help for their son, nephew, brother, but because he was over the age of 18, no one would help them. No one could help them legally either. Every day they woke up worried and went to bed worried. They were afraid that something would happen, and it finally did.They are probably relieved that their loved one is still alive, but can’t express that feeling publicly because there are other families grieving the loss of their loved one. This horror began with an illness so insidious that it makes you ill, but at the same time convinces you that you aren’t really sick. There is no fever, blood test or x-ray that can tell someone that they have Schizophrenia. The illness is a thief. It steals your sanity, it steals your friends and family, many times it steals your life.Had this young man killed himself, it might not have even made the news. Ten percent of those diagnosed with Schizophrenia die within the first decade after their diagnosis, and often from suicide. Forty percent attempt it. When this illness turns outward, it always makes the front page. Who could have stopped it? How could it have been prevented? The easy answer is through proper treatment. The hard answer is how do we do that. Early diagnosis, followed by proper medical intervention is the only way these heart-breaking stories will stop.The one thing this small minority of mentally ill individuals, who act out violently have in common is that they are not getting appropriate treatment. They have either never been diagnosed, or they have been improperly medicated, or have willfully refused their medication. If we were talking about someone’s 80-year-old grandfather, who has dementia and has disappeared, it would be on every news report. There would be police out searching for him. However, when an 18-year-old young man with a mental illness has disappeared onto the streets, the police will not even come out to take a police report. Laws grant officials in other jurisdictions and countries the ability to pick up someone who is too ill to properly take care of themselves, and to make sure they receive the health care they need. How many people have to die before we collectively agree that taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves is more important than worrying about what civil libertarians think? How many families in our communities are living in fear that their loved one will be the next one on the front page?
Austin Mardon received the Order of Canada for his mental health advocacy. He has suffered from Schizophrenia since he was a young man. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can read more at austinmardon.org.