Annually, September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). This year’s theme is ‘Take a minute, change a life.’ Canada’s current youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world and its young people between the ages of 15 and 19, who are struggling with mental illness and addiction, have the highest rates of suicide attempts of all Canadians.
But, as this year’s theme suggests, a few moments and words can change a life. CMHO is sharing a series of blogs to acknowledge that while many kids and their families are still struggling, there is hope and support available.
After reading these blogs, if you would like to see more done to help Ontario children and youth in crisis, please visit http://kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca/ and ask our government to do more. #kidscantwait
250 Youth in Ontario to Learn Suicide First Aid
written by Mary-Anne Leahy
“ As a youth, I have been involved in peer to peer support in child and youth mental health for eight years but found it difficult to talk about suicide. Suicide attempts are on the rise with youth. It is real. It is happening. Taking the SafeTALK training has provided a way to have that very difficult conversation which can result in saving a life.
- Deserae Gable is a facilitator with Pathways for Children and Youth in Kingston Ontario and is part of the New Mentality Network (TMN).
Recognizing that interventions can support the prevention of suicide, Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s youth engagement program, The New Mentality (TNM), is offering 250 youth from its network the opportunity to learn suicide first aid through the internationally recognized safeTALK program. Thanks to The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, this training will be offered at no cost.
Using the LivingWorks safeTALK model TNM staff members will be trained to become safeTALK trainers and will then deliver 10 safeTALK trainings to youth across Ontario. Through improving suicide first aid in our network, more youth and adult allies will be able to provide support to individuals in their communities
safeTALK is an alertness training that prepares anyone over 15, regardless of prior experiences or training, to become a suicide-alert helper through a program which includes role play of real life situations. safeTALK has found that, most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die, but are struggling with the pain in their lives. Through their words and actions, they invite help to stay alive. safeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these invitations and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources, such as Ontario’s community-based mental health system.
After taking the safeTALK training, Gable has shared her experience in her community and said “Asking someone: are you thinking about suicide? can be really scary the first time, but it can really help.”
We have 20 TNM groups across Ontario. One of their main activities is hosting events and speaking in their communities, with a focus on reducing stigma and educating youth on local services. These events are highly successful and engage a large number of community members. Some groups reach over 1,000 individuals each year.
Due to the nature of this work, our youth and allies act as informal gatekeepers - they are often the initial contact for people talking about mental health issues. As such it is important that they are knowledgeable about mental health, know the resources available in their community, and are prepared to support an individual who might be suicidal. Through improving capacity of these gatekeepers to address, notice and respond to situations where suicide thoughts might be present, and improving their awareness of community resources and how to connect someone with thoughts of suicide to further help, this will improve access to existing mental health services and supports.
Mary-Anne Leahy, is The New Mentality Network Coordinator where she supports local New Mentality groups as well as the practice of youth engagement on a provincial scale. She is very passionate about improving the lives of youth with mental health difficulties.