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This article was published 17/9/2018 (495 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A message of hope and community was at the forefront of a gathering to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10.
‘Working together to prevent suicide’ was the theme for this year’s event, which was hosted by Klinic Community Health at Vimy Ridge Memorial Park.
"It really pushes home the message that we all have a role to play in suicide prevention," said Rosemarie Gjerek, Klinic’s director of counselling and community health. "It’s really about showing caring and compassion and empathy for those around us."
According to Gjerek, roughly 200 Manitobans die by suicide each year and for every death there are 25 suicide attempts made.
"It is a very serious problem and it is an issue that impacts us all," she said. "If you do see someone who’s going through a difficult time or you’ve really noticed some changes in attitudes and behaviours that might be the time to reach out and ask the question, ‘Are you OK?’"
During the event, members of Klinic’s Dream Catchers program drummed and led the gathering on a walk of remembrance around the park. Elders, health workers and community members also addressed the crowd of about 40 people.
Seham Abbakar, who works with Newcomer Employment and Education Development Services, spoke about her struggles with mental health as a newcomer to Canada. She came to Winnipeg in 2016 as a refugee fleeing the South Sudanese civil war — a conflict that has claimed the lives of 22 of her family members.
"Facing all of those challenges makes a person feel fragile, vulnerable, hopeless and it’s very easy to feel broken," said Abbakar. "But not me and not in my case, the proof is that I’m still here in front of you fighting."
The event wrapped up with a cheque presentation by Kris Goodman, organizer of Breaking the Silence Suicide Awareness Ride. The Sept. 8 motorcycle ride from Winnipeg to Brandon raised more than $1,100 for the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line run by Klinic.
Goodman says he wanted to support the 24-hour crisis line, which handles about 10,000 suicide-related calls each year, after several of his family members lost friends to suicide.
"The whole key behind suicide prevention is communication and this is huge," he said. "The more you talk about it, the more you take away its power."
Goodman has also raised more than $4,000 for the crisis line through his Patch it Forward initiative. Through his website patchitforward.ca he sells patches that read ‘Lean on me’ and donates the proceeds to Klinic.
"I’m hoping that… if someone is down in the dumps, this gives them somebody to lean on," he said.
The Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line can be accessed at 1-877-435-7170 and resources are available online at reasontolive.ca
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.