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Suicide prevention in Hamilton through electronics1:21

Cecilia Marie Flynn explains the QR code

Suicide prevention in Hamilton through electronics 1:21

A local suicide prevention organization's latest campaign to prevent suicide replaces wordy brochures with a stamp-sized barcode.

The Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton's new campaign Stigma Hurts, launched on World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday, features a QR code that can be scanned by smartphones to take users to local resources.

'Suicidal behaviour is a result of a medical condition, not a sign of weakness in character.'—Dr. Jennifer Brasch of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton

The campaign is designed for anyone in need, but the technology is aimed specifically at tech-savvy youth to make information readily available on their devices, according to Cecilia Marie Flynn, the council's program coordinator.

"We recognize that one of the ways to connect with [youth] is through social media and through their electronics," she said. "This is a unique way to get to them."

Once scanned, the QR code will direct smartphone users to a mobile-friendly site containing concise information on the signs of suicide, intervention tips and local resources, such as 24-hour suicide crisis lines.

The council has printed 15,000 cards with the QR code and they will be distributed throughout the city this year.

The Stigma Hurts campaign, which promotes education and attitude change, goes along with the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day this year – stigma.

Suicide takes away the life of a Hamiltonian every nine days, but that is only "the tip of the iceberg," said Lea Pollard, chair of the council.

That number does not account for the 40 per cent of attempted suicides that are not completed, according to Pollard. In Canada, 1.7 million people have experienced thoughts of suicide. Globally, she says, people are losing loved ones to suicide every 40 seconds.

Stigmatizing language

Jennifer Brasch, director of psychiatric emergency service at the St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, said suicide is still considered a sign of weakness — "a sin, a taboo."

The stigma surrounding suicide is displayed by terms like "commit suicide" — which associates suicide with crime and sin — and "successful suicide."

"It makes my skin crawl. There's nothing successful about suicide," she said.

The language used in obituaries also encourages people to use euphemisms like "died suddenly" or "died unexpectedly," preventing people from talking about suicide openly.

But it's not just patients. Doctors and other health care providers can also experience stigma after losing a patient to suicide, due to the feeling of failure and guilt, she added.

"Suicidal behaviour is a result of a medical condition, not a sign of weakness in character," she said.