Nfld. & Labrador

Vigil to remember those who died by suicide providing comfort in isolating times

The vigil, usually held at St. Patrick's Church in St. John's, was first organized 16 years ago by Kim Kelly. It will take place online at Sunday evening.

'It always helps to talk to other people,' says Andy Jones

Kim Kelly, seen in this file photo, began organizing the Vigil to Remember Those Who Died by Suicide 16 years ago after the loss of her brother, Brendan. (CBC)

People from across Newfoundland and Labrador will gather virtually to honour loved ones who died by suicide Sunday evening.

The vigil, usually held at St. Patrick's Church in St. John's, was first organized 16 years ago by Kim Kelly. It will take place online at 7 p.m. NT.

Kelly decided to organize the vigil after the loss of her brother, Brendan.

"We actually did the first one in my hometown in Cape Broyle," Kelly told CBC Radio's On The Go on Friday. "Since we've been doing it now, we've really found we get a lot of feedback from people, who really find it provides them at least a little bit of comfort in this sad loss."

Andy Jones, part of the vigil's planning committee, lost his son, Louis, to suicide seven years ago. He said events like the vigil are a positive moment for everyone involved, especially near the holidays.

"It always helps to talk to other people, and to celebrate the lives of the people that we lost to suicide," he said. "It's also very helpful to have something like this at Christmas time, which is always a hard time of year."

Andy Jones lost his son, Louis, to suicide seven years ago. He says the vigil serves as a positive event, especially before a difficult holiday season. (Ritche Perez)

The vigil will feature a slide show of lost loved ones sent in by family members, along with over 90 names that will be read aloud in remembrance.

Kelly said some pictures sent in include people who died very recently, which she says reminds people that everyone is vulnerable.

"People die by suicide, and we try to do what we can to prevent it," she said. "But when it has happened, we really need to show our support."

Kelly added the goal of the vigil is not only to remember the people who died by suicide, but the lives they lived before.

"We don't want people to be remembered in how they died," she said. "Louis and Brendan and all of our loved ones were people. We want to focus on what they did in life, and for people to know that it's OK.… We are encouraging people to come together in this loss to remember our loved ones."

I love hearing his name, and I love talking about him.- Andy Jones

With the event moving into a virtual space this year, Jones said attendance has expanded from the St. John's area to as far as Rigolet.

"It's great to think that more people than usual will get to remember people who died by suicide and celebrate their lives," he said.

People say, 'I hope I don't make you sad by remembering Louis,' and I go, like, 'Please! Tell me everything you can about Louis. I love hearing about him.' I love hearing his name, and I love talking about him."

With a congregation not able to meet in person at this year's vigil, Kelly said it's important to be with people in different ways, such as watching the vigil as a virtual group.

"The biggest thing when somebody has lost a loved one to suicide is they're not always able to reach out," she said. "It's really important that those who aren't affected first hand, they reach out who are left behind after suicide."

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (tText, 4 p.m. to midnight ET only) | crisisservicescanada.ca 

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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