Manitoba·Opinion

Mental health advocate wants you to know how to survive suicidal sadness

When you hear someone has died by suicide, it's heart-wrenching, says John Peters. He says he knows how it feels to want everything to stop — but there are three things he says he wants those struggling with depression to know.

'You are beautiful, you have purpose. We need you to stay with us,' survivor says to those in pain

'Wherever you are, you are loved,' says John Peters. His message for those struggling with depression is to remember 'you are not a bad person … and you are not worthless.' (suriyachan/Shutterstock)

Please believe me, I know how it feels to want it all to stop.

It wasn't that I even wanted to die. I didn't.

I was just so exhausted from feeling the way I was feeling. 

And while those moments — when dying feels like your only option — are scary, you feel so frustrated that it makes it so tempting. 

But here's what I need you to know!

When you hear someone has died by suicide, it's heart-wrenching, it makes you feel sick to your stomach, it brings on a sudden intense feeling of ache in your soul — and always leaves you asking "Why?" 

Too many of us know the sting that suicide brings.

Too many of us are scared to talk about suicide, and too many of us perpetuate stigma around suicide. 

I don't have every answer. Nor can I speak to every case. 

But three things, in my experience, I know are certain.

John Peters offers a personal message to anyone in crisis:

If you're struggling with suicide ideation, Cree mental health advocate John Peters wants you to watch this message of compassion, hope and support. 0:47

1. We are ignorant

I've often seen individuals who have been hesitant to talk about suicide, because they believe talking about it causes it to happen more frequently. 

But I believe that if you're in pain, then you must talk about it.

We need to have more conversations about suicide and life promotion with our families, children and friends, in our workspaces and communities.

When we are connected, we can move the earth.- John Peters

Through storytelling and education, we can abolish the stigma around suicide and be more compassionate. There is power, growth and a healing impact when we speak the truth. 

2. We are bullies

Ignorance causes us to belittle, gaslight and silence those who are battling this enormous fight. 

There is a persistent behaviour of calling people "too sensitive" — which is a way to avoid being held accountable and to continue with abusive behaviour. 

It can be seen everywhere, when you hear "it's just a joke" or "don't take it so seriously." 

We must remember — we don't know what an individual is experiencing and what a person's thresholds are.

Humour that involves someone's identity, religion, sexual orientation, mental health or appearance could be detrimental. 

We as a community need to acknowledge the truth: there are many of us who fight silent battles and we urgently need to cultivate safe, shame-free spaces and communities, where an individual feels safe enough to reach out when in crisis. 

We as community members are all accountable to our neighbours.

Every human being's life is precious. 

John Peters urges anyone at risk of suicide to believe his words: 'The world is beautiful with you in it.' (Submitted by John Peters)

Today, there is no excuse for saying "I don't know."

With the amount of information on the internet, public health, and local mental health and suicide prevention initiatives, we can take steps every day to ensure that we are informed and equipped with the right information and tools. 

Which brings us to …

3. Accessibility

It is a privilege to have access to resources and efficient care. 

Sadly, here in Canada, prejudice and neglect are two major barriers in the system. 

Due to the genocidal foundation of our country, colonial systems and policies, a large number of Canadians do not have access to care. 

I speak to this as a front-line worker. In my area, for example, we have fewer than 1,500 people, and the number of people who have to tirelessly fight to access care is appalling. 

Now, think about that in a lens looking at the entire country. 

If any Canadian suffers, if any Canadian dies by suicide, we fail, Canada fails — and continues to fail.

Commission your community's leadership and local governments to bring in resources, and do not be gentle or quiet about it.

BE LOUD AND ADAMANT!

Community is incredible and when we are connected, we can move the earth.

Conduct workshops facilitated by health professionals about suicide prevention, so the community can gain knowledge.

If you are struggling today, please reach out to a loved one.- John Peters

Provide mental health therapists and programs to respond to our community members who reach out when they are in crisis. This will help us support and care for them in a good way. 

Provide spaces where people can pray together, and provide creative outlets for people to nourish their gifts and talents.

Each individual has a unique expression form and when it's nourished, it is powerful and healing. 

You can also start prevention and life promotion initiatives in your own community to raise awareness.

Really, the list could go on and on, because everyone is responsible for actively contributing to the prevention of suicide.

There are lives at stake! 

Many people, such as your friends, family, even you, may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

I need you to know, if that's you right now, wherever you are — listen to me:

You are loved, you are not a bad person, you are not a bad parent, you are not a bad kid, you are not a screw-up, and you are not worthless.

You are beautiful, you are talented, you are gifted, you have purpose, and we need you to stay with us. 

If you are struggling today, please reach out to a loved one. 

You can also call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566, Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or you can visit thelifelinecanada.ca for more information on other crisis help lines. 

Also, for young readers, please check out WeMatter campaign on Facebook, Instagram and wemattercampaign.org

Remember:

The world is beautiful with you in it!


This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

John Peters

Mental health advocate

John Peters is an Inninu Napew (Cree man) from Makeso Sakahikan (Fox Lake) who works for Fox Lake Cree Nation, developing and implementing recreation and wellness programming and community events. He's passionate about mental health education and awareness, learning his language and Indigenous youth empowerment.