Ron Lewandoski wipes a tear from his eye as his wife, Evelyn, tells their son’s story during yesterday’s World Suicide Prevention Day event at Brandon City Hall.
(BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Candles are handed out to participants in memory of those who have been lost during Tuesday’s event.
(BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon’s Suicide Prevention Implementation Network (SPIN) wants the community to know that it’s never too late or too early to reach out for help.
"Stigma is huge and it’s a big barrier preventing people from getting the help they need," Brandon SPIN chairperson Kathy Foley said. "Statistics indicate that one in 20 people will have suicide thoughts at any given time. Thank goodness that one in 20 people aren’t acting on those thoughts, but that does mean that people are in distress and need some help."
Nearly 40 community members gathered at a public event at city hall on Tuesday to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.
The event, sponsored by Brandon SPIN, also gave the organization a chance to recognize local resource groups who make a difference in the community and support those whose lives have been impacted by suicide.
"Resources before, after, always are important," Foley said. "Even one suicide is one too many because we’re losing valuable lives that could be contributing to our community."
The event also gave one family a chance to share their story.
Two years ago, Evelyn and Rod Lewandoski’s 44-year-old son committed suicide, and they both agree talking about it is part of the healing process.
"With suicide, it just seems to be taboo to talk about with anybody that hasn’t gone through it. People just don’t want to talk about it," Rod said. "It happened to us, so we like to talk about it and need to talk about it."
The couple lives in Erickson and said there aren’t many mental health resources there, so they attend monthly suicide bereavement meetings in Brandon.
"It’s been wonderful," Evelyn said. "They’ve helped us a lot … it’s an ongoing thing for anyone who’s involved in something like this."
The meetings also help them remember that they’re not alone, Evelyn said.
"There are other people going through similar stories. Every story is a little bit different, but the pain is the same," she said.
The couple said losing their son has changed their lives in "every way imaginable," but are thankful he left them a hand-written note.
"Our own son said he couldn’t speak about it, but he hoped that other people would be able to," Evelyn said.
Although he doesn’t look at it very often, Rod said he thinks about the hand-written note a lot.
"I’ve almost memorized every line," Rod said. "At least it’s something. A lot of people don’t have anything and you would question yourself even more I think."
Foley said it’s important for family and friends of loved ones who have taken their own lives to remember that supports are available.
"That’s one of the messages we want to get out is that help is always available," she said. "Every one of us has mental health issues one time in our life, and it’s important for us to reach out and get help."
Some of the resource centres recognized at the event included the annual Circle of Remembrance planning committee, a memorial service held for family and friends who have been bereaved by suicide.
Westman Crisis Service and Centre for Adult Psychiatry staff were also recognized for their work in suicide intervention and YWCA’s Power of Being a Girl conference planning committee was recognized for its work in the area of mental well-being and suicide prevention.
For more information about resources and crisis services, call Westman Crisis Services at 204-725-4411, Community Health Services Brandon at 204-578-2400 or the 7th Street Access Centre at 204-578-4800.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 11, 2013