Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A local mental health advocacy organization is finding new ways to spread awareness and support to the community for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020.
Normally, the Brandon and Area Suicide Prevention Implementation Network, best known as SPIN, would mark the day — today — with a luncheon to highlight community members, organizations and agencies that work to make Brandon safer.
This year, due to COVID-19, the organization has had to rethink its usual approach to suicide prevention awareness.
One way SPIN has achieved this is through the recent installation of two digital billboards on 18th Street, which are two-sided.
The billboards are part of Buddy Up, a men’s suicide prevention campaign originally created by the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary.
"It’s encouraging men to have real conversations and support their buddies when they’re struggling," Gagnon said. "Men have a suicide (death) rate three times higher than women, and we believe that suicides can be prevented when have real conversations."
According to Statistics Canada, suicide rates among men are approximately three times higher than among women.
Each billboard includes images from the Buddy Up campaign, as well as the phone number for the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line.
The billboards are just one way that SPIN has found to continue spreading its message of suicide prevention in the absence of physical gatherings.
"We’re usually attending different events ... in the community to promote the crisis lines and identifying where you can go for support," Gagnon said. "This year we’re doing as much as we can virtually."
SPIN Brandon will be sharing information about the day on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Gagnon said that the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely had an impact on people’s mental health. Stay-home orders and social distancing isolate people further, putting that more at risk for depression and anxiety.
Janet Smith, the community outreach manager for Klinic’s Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services, agrees.
"I think COVID has really, for many people, created a sense of hopelessness for the future, and helplessness," Smith said. "We’re certainly seeing people struggling with their mental health in lots of different ways."
Smith said those seeking support — including those struggling with suicide ideation, survivors of suicide and those concerned about a loved one — should access Reason To Live, the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line at 1-877-435-7170, or visit reasontolive.ca.
Through the hotline, people can access free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"People need to know that there is help available, that it is accessible to them and there’s always a reason to live," Smith said.
World Suicide Prevention Day comes once a year, but Smith emphasized that suicide prevention is something that should be paid attention to year-round.
"World Suicide Prevention Day in itself, it’s just a day to pay closer attention to this very important issue and ensure anyone who’s at risk knows there are places that they can turn to get the help that they need," Smith said.
"Every day we should be aware of suicide and the risk and also the opportunities that are around us to reach out for help."
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