Aiming for hope on World Suicide Prevention Day

St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral in Prince Albert. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

No matter how dark things get, you are not alone.

That’s the message members of St. Alban’s Cathedral in Prince Albert hope to pass on when they host a special awareness and remembrance event for World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday.

St. Alban’s rector David Butorac said they want to create safe place where people can talk about their struggles with suicide and receive healing.

“We try and be engaged with where people are at, and unfortunately, suicide is something that affects everyone,” Butorac said. “(It’s) everyone in Canada, everyone in Saskatchewan, everyone in the north. Whether or not you’re white settler or First Nations, it’s a plague on everyone.”

St. Alban’s has hosted similar events in the past with keynote speakers such as Sheryl Kimbley and Kevin Joseph. This year, Michelle McKeaveney of the River Valley Resilience Retreat (RVRR) will speak, with Cheyenne McDonald giving a testimonial. The event will also include a candlelight vigil, plus a goodwill offering taken for the RVRR.

“Darkness hates light, and this is an opportunity, with a candlelight vigil, to shine light into darkness by talking about it in a safe place,” Butorac said.

“It’s very much about hope, and caring for others as we are able and to have the cathedral be used as a place for that meeting and that healing,” he added.

Saskatchewan is one of the worst provinces for suicides, according to statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association. In 2022, 230 people committed suicide in Saskatchewan, an increase over the 210 who died by suicide in 2021.

This isn’t a recent trend either. Between 2015 and 2019, Saskatchewan averaged 15.4 suicides per 100,000 people. For the rest of Canada, the average was 10 suicides.

Butorac said institutions like St. Alban’s are doing their best to help prevent those deaths, but it’s a daunting challenge. He hopes Sunday’s event will help people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and provide healing for people who have had family members or friends commit suicide.

“We live in a culture of despair,” he said. “We live in a culture without hope, and unfortunately, where that despair resides, people do think about ending their own lives. This is the real epidemic and here we are and we’re called to do something about it.”

The World Suicide Prevention Day event will begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10 at St. Alban’s Cathedral.