Hope – a key ingredient in suicide prevention
Amanda Brazil says it will take a better understanding of why Islanders would choose to end their lives in order to reduce the rate of suicides in the province. She was part of a group that worked with the provincial government to develop Building Blocks of Hope: A Suicide Prevention Strategy for Prince Edward Island.
“In terms of numbers, the suicide rate on PEI doesn’t tend to be exceptionally high,” said Brazil, director of programs and policy with the Canadian Mental Health Association, PEI Division.
"But due to the nature of PEI society, it can feel bigger; we’re all so connected that a suicide here feels very close to home."
Government’s strategy was developed after research into suicide on Prince Edward Island, analysis of best practices, and conversations with hundreds of Islanders. It is built around three building blocks of hope – hearing, helping, and healing.
Brazil said the “hearing” part can be challenging for people who seek to prevent suicides.
“Understanding the factors that lead to a suicide is very important. There can sometime be a contagion effect, suicides within a community or a particular group,” she said. “That pattern can be interrupted but only if we understand the pattern is happening and the factors leading up to it. We really want to see a lot of exchanging information – between services providers, but also among community members.”
Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell said the multi-party approach that went into developing the strategy will be important to the long-term work of suicide prevention.
“We want to help people at risk of suicide and help those who are left behind,” Mitchell said. “Government will need to rely on the expertise and insight of health providers, front-line workers, family members and community leaders to address such a complex problem.”
Brazil said hope is a key ingredient in suicide prevention. People have to believe the problem can be addressed effectively.
“A lot of what goes into suicide prevention is really the strengthening of mental health services. When people are able to address their health and to get counseling and services they need, it often can mean that person doesn’t end up thinking about or attempting suicide,” she said.
“There are concrete easily visible actions – like the recommendation for safety barriers on the Hillsborough Bridge. But there are other things like training people in the community to watch for signs and to steer people toward help when they may be considering suicide.”
“We think we can save lives by understanding the problem and working together to keep suicides from happening.”