Eleven people die by suicide each day in Canada, according to recent statistics from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Suicide is currently ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in this country – but it is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 34, and the Public Health Agency of Canada reports thoughts of suicide and suicide-related behaviours are “more frequent among LGBTQ youth in comparison to their non-LGBTQ peers. This refers to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit or queer/questioning youth.”
Fourteen-year-old LGBTQ+ activist Canon Cunningham fought off depression and thoughts of suicide for a number of years. Overcome by feelings of fear, shame and confusion on what had become a lonely journey of self-discovery, the St. Albert teen (who goes by the pronouns “they/them”) told the Gazette, “I just felt like if I could just harm myself or take all the pain away, it would just be so much better. I felt like not living any more was a better option than just coming out.”
Support from Outloud St. Albert and the gay-straight alliance at W.D. Cuts, coupled with the dogged determination of a loving family to find help for Canon rescued them from a crushing struggle augmented by feelings of loneliness and isolation. Canon knows there are other LGBTQ+ youth out there who are feeling the same hopelessness, and is on a quest to reach those kids and help them through that darkness.
Canon’s story is not an uncommon one, sadly. Many of us in St. Albert, across the country and around the world have gone through depression and other mental health struggles. Many of us have come out the other side, but many others have not. The latest research shows up to 200 people attempt suicide each day in Canada, and for every one who succeeds, between seven and 10 survivors are profoundly affected.
Talking about suicide is key to prevention, Ashif Kassam, owner of Lumina Counselling Services in St. Albert, told the Gazette last September: “We’re all human beings. We’re all vulnerable, we all suffer and we all need help at times.”
Our community is lucky to have people like Canon who are offering their hand to those who are struggling, and sharing their story to help spread a message of hope.
Tuesday, Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Organizers of a suicide prevention vigil are inviting all St. Albertans to join together at St. Albert Place at 7 p.m. that day to “shine a light on this important issue and send a message to those who are despairing, those who are grieving and those who are supporting someone who is struggling that they are not alone.”
You are not alone. For those of you who can't make the vigil, we hope you take the time to reach out to your loved ones and, if you can, strangers too. As the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention says, suicide prevention is everyone's responsibility. The more we talk about it, the more of a difference we can make.