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Home News ‘Know where to turn’ – organizers hope community will pull together for World Suicide Prevention Day

‘Know where to turn’ – organizers hope community will pull together for World Suicide Prevention Day

‘Know where to turn’ – organizers hope community will pull together for World Suicide Prevention Day
City of Prince Albert -- Herald file photo.

A group of Prince Albert and area residents are trying to be more proactive in their fight to reduce suicides in Saskatchewan, starting today with World Suicide Prevention Day.

The group has a candlelight vigil planned for sunset at Kinsmen Park in Prince Albert to give residents a chance to remember friends and family members who died by suicide. They’ve also invited mental health and addictions support groups to speak at the event, in hopes of reminding attendees struggling with suicidal thoughts that help is always available.

“A lot of people don’t know where to turn to when you’re dealing with this situation, so we would like to get that information out in getting these organizations to speak and showcase their support for people in crisis,” said Conrad Burns, one of several people helping to organize the event.

“Reaching out is the best thing to do sometimes, because you’re not alone. There are other people out there dealing with it, or there are organizations here in Prince Albert that can help you.”

Burns said he was inspired to get involved in organizing after seeing how suicide effected close friends in Prince Albert and in his home community.

He hopes the event will make it easier to discuss mental health in Prince Albert, and perhaps inspire the City of Prince Albert to increase efforts to secure more long-term funding for support groups and organizations.

“Our theme is ‘Just Starting the Conversation” because there have been walks for it, there’s World Suicide Prevention Day, there’s all this stuff, but it’s still a faux pas to talk about it,” Burns explained.

Burns said the issue affects communities across the north, and that has an impact on Prince Albert. When one person commits suicide, it affects friends and family members across the region, and many of those people head to Prince Albert for help.

“We’d like to see Prince Albert getting the help that it truly needs, because we are a population of 35,000 people, but we service another population of 120,000 people,” Burns said.

“Everything comes to and through Prince Albert to the north, so what happens here has a huge impact on surrounding communities.”

Originally, organizers were planning on hosting an event Friday morning in the City Hall foyer. Burns said they’ve cancelled that portion of the event after the City introduced its new COVID-19 mask requirements for city facilities.

The candlelight vigil will still go ahead as planned.

A total of 134 Saskatchewan residents committed suicide in 2020, which is well below the four-year average of more than 200. Saskatchewan wasn’t the only province to see a decline in suicides either over the last year. Both Alberta and British Columbia posted decreases.

Researchers say it’s difficult to explain why suicides dropped. They say strong government supports during the COVID-19 outbreak likely helped, and while distress increased during the last year, so did the number of people reaching out to seek help.

“As someone who studies suicide a lot, I care about distress very much,” UBC psychiatrist and suicide expert Tyler Black told the CBC in February. “But, there’s not a straight line between distress and suicide.”

Black told the CBC the “pull together” effect may have something to do with it, since communities that face severe hardship pull together in collective action.

“The pull together is counter-intuitive,” he told the CBC. “When we’re distressed and we’re all trying to do something together for society for the benefit of others, it actually does significantly decrease suicide rates.”