Eleven. That’s the number of Canadians who will choose to end their lives by suicide by the end of the day.

Two-hundred. That’s about the number of Canadians who will attempt suicide, but who will thankfully survive, by the end of today.

Two. That’s the number of times I’ve survived a suicide attempt in the short 30 years I’ve been on this planet (and coincidently CASP celebrated its 30th year in operation last year – how we’ve grown on two separate but similar paths!)

Many people believe that the act of suicide is selfish, cowardly on part of the individual, or embarrassing for friends and family. But as a survivor, I can say with confidence that it isn’t a choice that comes easily. I would even argue that it isn’t a choice whatsoever, but rather a desperate act during the deepest and darkest period of a battle with mental illness. For me, it was an attempt to end the emotional pain inflicted by my illness. I was sick, and I was unable to see any alternative or improvement to my bleak and seemingly hopeless situation.

If you think about the fact that one in five people suffer from a mental health problem, and 90% of all suicidal people have a mental health problem, you’re likely to know someone who has either died by suicide, or has seriously contemplated it. The importance of educating people of where and how to seek help cannot be stressed enough. If I knew there was a distress line in my community, I may have picked up the phone and called someone. If I knew there was such a thing as a ‘safety plan’, I might have used this as a tool to avoid self-harm. But at the time, I just thought I was a failure as a daughter, as a friend, and in life. We need to let Canadians know that their lives are valued, and that there is hope and support in our communities.

As an Executive Board Member to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, I am humbled to be able to represent a voice for survivors of suicide attempt – and proud of CASP for recognizing the importance of having ‘our’ voice at the table. Attempt survivors are some of the strongest – yet misunderstood – people in society. CASP believes that we have an invaluable amount of knowledge and passion to advance suicide prevention efforts in Canada, which I see as a big step from even five years ago!

Through the tireless efforts of suicide prevention advocates and survivors across Canada (including Mark Henick, Alicia Rumundo, and Orlando Da Silva), we are moving towards a country filled with greater understanding, awareness and acceptance of those who experience suicidality.

As we enter the New Year, I invite each of you to join us at CASP, and look for ways to get involved in this growing community of survivors, friends and family. The best part? Taking action is easy. Consider the following:

Zero. That is the number of deaths by suicide I hope to see in my lifetime, so reach out and let’s get started.

With strength & warmth,

Meg Schellenberg
Chair, Survivor of Suicide Attempt

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