An author and retired police communications strategist is hoping a blog post she wrote about her late brother will help people be more open when it comes to talking about suicide.
'A suicide is a death as cancer is a death as a heart attack is a death.' - Helen Escott
Helen Escott wrote the post — titled Why are people afraid to say the word suicide? — to reflect on some of the things she's been dealing with since her brother Jim's death by suicide last March.
In the post, she describes how awkward and reluctant people are when talking to her about her brother's death, as well as some of the insights she has into why he became so hopeless.
Afraid of the conversation
She said at Jim's funeral at least two friends asked her how he died and, when they found out it was by suicide, became very uncomfortable and left within minutes, which was a big eye-opener.
"It's like it's not a real death," she told the St. John's Morning Show.
"But if I had said he died with cancer or a heart attack they would have said 'Oh well you know my aunt died of cancer, I know what you're going through, I can really sympathize with you' — nobody says that when it's a suicide."
Jim had dealt with anxiety and depression for a long time, Escott said, adding she can't blame his death on a lack of support or resources. She said services were mostly available, whether Jim accepted them or not.
What surprised her the most through the whole ordeal was how many problems her brother had to deal with from those who were quick to prey on someone who was dealing with depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems.
She points to one example where a woman he met on a dating website convinced him to put her name as co-owner of his house.
"There was no shortage of people out there who will take advantage of you when you suffer from mental health problems," she said.
"For him, as a single man living in his own home, he became a target for people who were looking to target him and scam him."
Positive response to post
Escott said she wrote last week's blog post as a way to personally work through Jim's death, and is shocked at the positive response she's received.
Her main goal with the post, and going forward, is to get people talking about suicide the way they talk about other deaths, and not treat them with the stigma that is still so common.
"A suicide is a death as cancer is a death as heart attack is a death. Treat it no different," she said.
"These deaths are real and those people meant something to somebody. And to just sweep them under the rug, it's almost that old mindset of 'We're burying them outside the graveyard walls because they can't be on consecrated walls."
Escott's full post can be found on her blog.
If you are in distress or considering suicide, there are places to turn for support, including your doctor or Newfoundland and Labrador's Mental Health Crisis Centre at (709) 737-4271. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention also has information about where to find help.