Published in Stony Plain Reporter/Spruce Grove Examiner, Friday, September 4, 2015.
Thank you Thomas Miller for your continued support of this issue!
Published in Stony Plain Reporter/Spruce Grove Examiner, Friday, September 4, 2015.
By the time Jacqueline was 19 years old, she had lost both her parents to suicide.
It was 1979, she was living in Saskatoon and life was lonely.
Jacqueline buried her feelings of abandonment and rejection deep inside herself. She spiralled out of control, turning to a life of self-harm and substance abuse.
“I was on my own,” Jacqueline said.
“I went through life very angry, lonely and always feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I became connected in crowds that partied and went to the bar a lot. I used and abused because I didn’t want to face life.”
By her 20th birthday, Jacqueline had led a life that was very different from most of the children she had grown up with. Both her parents were functioning addicts — addicted to drugs and alcohol while still able to work.
Her father left when she was an infant, only three weeks old, and her mother spent every day drinking a bottle of vodka or a bottle of gin out of her closet. Sometimes both.
“She tried to hide if from me,” Jacqueline said. “My memories of growing up are not fun ones with my friends. They’re of me listening outside her door and thinking, “I know what you’re doing.” I was living in fear and watching my mom die.”
In 1975, with creditors hounding her for money, Jacqueline’s mom went missing for a short time. Then on Dec. 6, she was found deceased in a Holiday Inn in Saskatoon. She had left a note and had ended her life.
Jacqueline left high school and partied away her teenage years, connecting off and on with her father who was then living in B.C. When she was 17, she herself attempted suicide. Eventually, she held a job working for a brokerage in Saskatoon and like her parents, had become a functioning addict.
In 1979, Jacqueline learned her father’s latest relationship had ended. She reached out to see how he was coping.
“He was delirious,” Jacqueline said. So, she asked for time off work, flew to B.C. and knocked at his door.
“He opened the door, let me in, cleaned himself up and we spent the day together. He had a mobile home business and drove me out for a day alone. He said sorry for what Mom did to me and said he would never do what she did.”
The next day, he said goodbye and insisted she board a plane back to Saskatoon. It was two days later that her sister called. Instinctively, knowing what had happened, Jacqueline set the phone down, went to her room, covered her face with her pillow and screamed.
“I got back to the phone and asked if she was calling to tell me that Dad was dead,” Jacqueline said. “Yes, he had committed suicide. I was 19 and I had no parents.”
Jacqueline says the pain of those times has never left her — it still hurts.
Today, Jacqueline is 55 years old. She has been in recovery and has been sober for seven and a half years. She is actively involved with a 12-step fellowship and is a sponsor for others.
And, with a beautiful daughter, Jacqueline is trying to make a difference and break the cycle of abuse that has affected her family.
Since January 2015, Jacqueline has attended the Resources for Suicide Survivors Support Group, which meets on the last Monday of every month in Spruce Grove. To this day, she distinctly remembers her first group session and the way it made her feel.
“I had never sat in a room with other people who are survivors of suicide,” she said. “It was a real eye opener for me. Listening to their experiences was just heart wrenching, but it helped because it solidified that I wasn’t alone. For many years it felt like I was the only person who had ever gone through this.”
Jacqueline remembers her body tingling and physically vibrating as she waited to share her story with the group. She says it was her body’s reaction to the first time she had ever shared her story with people who had been where she had been.
For Jacqueline, this support group is a place for likeminded people to make a connection, through discussion and emotion. They share and hear hope from one another.
“Life is all about connection. Whether connecting with one person, a higher power, a group of people or with yourself — it’s all about connection,” she said.
“When we become disconnected, we usually live in fear. When you’re not alone, you’re living in love. There’s two ways to live: in love or in fear — there’s no in between.”
Now, Jacqueline does her best to live her life in love. She celebrates the seasons with her daughter and says that at times it feels like this gives her a chance to know the little girl inside herself.
And while the pain is not gone, it is not the burden it once was. With others listening to her story, Jacqueline says she can unload part of her pain, some of the thoughts and feelings she harbours away.
“Healing comes through sharing your pain,” she said. “There’s someone out there who has been where you’ve been, felt what you felt and will share the experience of how they’ve healed.”
Jacqueline, along with others from the Suicide Survivors Support Group, will participate in the 12th annual Rotary Run for Life on Sept. 13 at the Heritage Park Pavilion in Stony Plain. This five kilometre walk, 10 kilometre run or half-marathon event raises money and awareness for suicide prevention in the tri-area.
As a message to the community, Jacqueline says, “If you’re thinking of taking your own life, don’t do it. There is a lot of destruction left behind. If you’re a product of suicide, come and be with people who have unconditional love, compassion and who pass no judgment.”
Jacqueline’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity. She is a Spruce Grove resident and has lived in the tri-area off and on for 12 years.
If you or someone you know has lost someone to suicide, you are encouraged to contact the mental health office at WestView Health Centre, 780-963-6151. An intake worker will connect you with the supports and services you need.
For more information regarding Rotary Run for Life, visit www.rotaryrun.ca.
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Every year in Canada approximately 4000 people die by suicide. For each one of those deaths, on average 6 people are tragically and traumatically affected for life. These people are often called Survivors of Suicide Loss.
The grieving process for these Survivors of Suicide Loss is complicated and confusing. It is unlike the grieving process surrounding any other death or loss. It can be accompanied by strong and often contradictory emotions including guilt, anger, relief and abandonment. It is a process where both intense love and anger can be directed at the deceased.
Sadly, it is also often accompanied with stigma and isolation. This is something the Coordinated Suicide Prevention Program (CSPP) hopes to reduce. Every year on the weekend before American Thanksgiving, over 250 events are held throughout Canada, the US, and around the world to offer survivors of suicide loss a space to gather together to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.
In our community, the CSPP is hosting a special two-day event aimed at building a community of healing and support.
On Friday November 21, special facilitators in Yoga for Grief and Music Therapy are being brought in from Edmonton to deliver a special healing session specifically for survivors of suicide loss.
Sandy Ayre, from Yoga for Grief Support, will create a safe and sacred space to begin to process and explore sensations, thoughts, and emotions in both the mind and body. Participants will start to learn empowering techniques to cope with their grief, find compassion for their journey, and honour their loss. (http://www.yogaforgriefsupport.com/)
Sheila Killoran, from Transitions Music Therapy, will use gentle music and guided imagery to facilitate emotional expression and healing that is difficult with words alone. This process of inner exploration and self discovery is an opportunity to integrate mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspect of well being. (http://www.transitionsmusictherapy.ca/)
On Saturday November 22, the CSPP is hosting a screening of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2014 documentary – The Journey. This documentary tells the stories of a diverse group of suicide loss survivors. It’s a powerful film that shows how each survivor is weathering the loss of a loved one, and how they are finding their way back to a life rich in meaning—and even joy.
The event is open to all – survivors and anyone wanting to support them. The event will open with an aboriginal healing ceremony led by a local Elder, Wilson Bearhead, and will include a supported discussion, memorial and catered lunch.
These events are FREE events. Contact the CSPP office to register: 780-963-7007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about CSPP
In addition to working to support Survivors of Suicide Loss, the Coordinated Suicide Prevention Program works in our community to increase awareness about issues surrounding suicide, to eliminate the stigma around talking openly about suicide, and to reduce the number of suicides occurring in our region which currently sits at approximately 1 suicide every 5 days.
Published in the Stony Plain Reporter/Spruce Grove Examiner on November 7, 2014
Rotary Run for Life in Stony Plain continues to help many
Family members and citizens from the tri-area community show up every year to lend moral support to those involved in the Rotary Run for Life event, done in support of suicide prevention and awareness. – Thomas Miller, File Photo
The Rotary Run for Life is in its 11th year and race day is just around the corner.
The event will bring walkers and runners together for a five-kilometre, 10-kilometre or half marathon route through Stony Plain’s trail network, starting at Heritage Park Pavilion, on Sept. 14.
Since its inception, the run has raised funds and awareness for the prevention of suicide and worked to reduce any lingering stigma surrounding suicide in our community, said race director and chairperson Alyson Brown.
Additionally, the event offers friends and family members an opportunity to remember and honour loved ones who have been lost to suicide.
“We need to get the word out there in our community that this is our problem and it is preventable with the right training and education. Talking about it is one of the first steps towards change,” Brown said.
“People are afraid to speak about it. We hope that by talking about it and by bringing it to the public eye we can reduce the stigma, give (those thinking about suicide and suffering from mental illness) a voice and let them know it’s OK to ask for help.”
“In the past, people wouldn’t have spoken about it (as much) but now, almost everybody knows someone, or of someone, who has been lost to suicide. It’s hitting closer to home.”
More than 500 people participated in the walk/run last year with an additional 300 volunteers and supporters lining the routes.
Last year, more than $70,000 was raised during the Rotary Run for Life. This year, run organizers hope to see $80,000 raised.
Notably, corporate sponsorships and financial contributions are always welcomed and encouraged.
The money raised is divided between the Co-ordinated Suicide Prevention Program (CSPP) — an organization that falls under the umbrella of the Simon Poultney Foundation — and the regional Rotary Clubs.
All funds given to the Stony Plain and Spruce Grove Rotary Clubs, and Rotary After Dark of Parkland County, are earmarked for mental health programs and initiatives.
For more information or to register online, visit www.rotaryrun.ca. Members of the public interested in volunteering during the event are asked to contact Alyson Brown at 780-868-2688.
In Alberta, winters are hard. They are cold, dark and long. And yet, winter is NOT the season with the highest suicide rate as many people believe. The truth is that more suicides occur in the spring than in any other season.
In fact, suicide rates can be as much as 25% higher in spring than in winter. There is also a smaller peak in mid fall, but the suicide rate in winter is lower than all other seasons.
Although this fact may seem counterintuitive to many, it has been historically noted and studied ever since the 1800s. As of yet, there is no sound explanation of this phenomenon; but there are lots of theories. Here are a few:
One theory suggests that the spring creates a “broken promise effect” in which the person is disappointed to see that spring has not brought the relief they thought it would.
Another theory suggests that in spring there is a sudden decrease in melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep. This decrease is suppose to energize us for the longer summer days but can also cause agitation which could lead to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Yet another theory suggests a link between inflammation and depression and speculates that either a vitamin D deficiency or spring allergens could cause inflammation that can lead to higher depression and ultimately greater suicide rates.
Some studies have shown that this seasonal rise is greater in rural and agricultural communities and links the rise to fact that people enter a state of “semi-hibernation” over the winter and in spring have a sudden increase in intensity of work and social interactions that may bring more stress.
As scientists continue to search for the answers, we are left with one fact. Rarely is any suicide linked to one cause. Suicide is a very complicated issue; and, there are many contributing factors to any suicide. We need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves and others within our society.
If you or someone you know starts to enter a place of hopelessness and to feel that life is not worth living, it is important to talk to as many people as you can. Feeling hopeless is not a natural state and there is help out there. Be persistent and get help.
Spring should be a time of re-awakening to life. If it does not feel that way, seek help and support now. Contact the Support Network Distress line if you are in crisis 1-800-232-7288 or call 911 if it is an emergency. For more information about suicide awareness, go to the Coordinated Suicide Prevention Program website. https://www.thecspp.org/
The CSPP is a non-profit organization that provides suicide awareness and prevention presentation to schools, businesses, or organizations throughout our tri-community area.
(Published in the Stony Plain Reporter/Spruce Grove Examiner, April 2014)