Manitoba

'Nobody wants to talk about it': Breaking the stigma on World Suicide Prevention Day

Mental health advocates say stigma still surrounds suicidal behaviour, which makes it difficult for people to reach out for help.

Klinic holding event to raise awareness of available resources

The executive director of Klinic says the Manitoba Suicide Prevention Line fields about 10,000 calls each year, demonstrating the need to talk mental health issues and suicidal behaviour and for access to resources for people who are in crisis. (CBC)

Despite increasing awareness of mental health issues, suicide still seems to be a taboo topic, says Kris Goodman.

"Everybody still seems to think it's a deep, dark, dirty secret, and nobody wants to talk it," he said.

Goodman started the Patch It Forward campaign to raise money for the Manitoba Suicide Prevention Line, run by Klinic Community Health, after his daughter's best friend died by suicide.

On Monday, which is World Suicide Prevention Day, Goodman will present the community organization with the funds he's raised this year.

Goodman has collected about $1,000 from selling cloth patches that say "Lean On Me," and from registration fees from an annual motorcycle ride that he organizes.

In total, he's raised close to $5,000 since he started the campaign about four years ago. 

Breaking the stigma

He chose "lean on me" as a slogan to send a message that it's OK to reach out if you need help.

"I would hope that anybody who's wearing one of my patches, if anybody came to them, it's like, 'Yeah I will be your ear, I will talk to you,'" he said.

Kris Goodman says he hopes his 'Patch It Forward' badges show people that it's okay to reach out for help. (Submitted by Kris Goodman)

"You rob suicide of its power by talking about it."

Nicole Chammartin, executive director of Klinic, said the suicide prevention line receives about 10,000 calls a year.

"That shows that this is a fairly large challenge in our community," she said.

The more we stigmatise mental health issues and suicidal behaviour in society, the more likely people are to not reach out for help, she said.

Nicole Chammartin is the executive director of Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg and the Sexuality Education Resource Centre. (Submitted by Nicole Chammartin)

"Our feeling is the more you talk about it, the more you come together as a society and a community, to talk about the impacts of suicide, to talk about bringing together safer communities, then hopefully more people will reach out for supports when they need it," she said.

Advice for helping loved ones

If you think a loved one is struggling, there are things you can do, she said.

Watch for changes in behaviour, like someone becoming withdrawn or behaving erratically, and reach out, she said.

"We can tell when someone we love or care about is behaving in a different way. We often have that feeling, and I think a common feeling is, 'do I say anything?'" she said.

"But I think the people we know, we know when they're behaving differently, and the compassionate response is to ask them about it, and engage them in conversation and ask them how they're feeling."

Goodman will present his cheque to Klinic on Monday at the World Suicide Prevention Day event at Vimy Ridge Park. 

The event will feature a meditative walk of remembrance and drumming courtesy of the Dream Catchers Program, a part of Klinic Community Health. It will also be an opportunity for people to learn about the resources available in the community for mental health issues. 

If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Line toll-free 24/7 at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-688-6868.

Chammartin stressed that anyone can call the helpline whenever they need it.

She also suggested visiting reasontolive.ca for information on resources in the community. 

With files from Information Radio 

About the Author

Sarah Petz

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. She was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. Her career has taken her across three provinces and includes a stint in East Africa. In 2017, she was part of a team of reporters and editors nominated for a National Newspaper Award for a feature on the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.petz@cbc.ca.