By Lynn Keane
Lynn Keane is a speaker, author, former broadcast journalist and passionate advocate for youth suicide prevention and mental wellness. She has spent the last decade educating the public about the devastating reality of people in crisis and suicide. Website: lynnkeane.ca TEDx Youth Talk: “We need to talk about Suicide Prevention”
In consultation with Dr. Ian Dawe, Program Chief & Medical Director, Mental Health-Trillium Health Partners & Associate Professor of Psychiatry University of Toronto
We are living through a global pandemic, but we are not all in this together. COVID-19 has highlighted the social and economic inequities among minority groups, especially among BIPOC in our communities. * “Children and youth with low socioeconomic status deal with far more mental health disorders than their peers”.
“Child and adolescent psychiatrists must ensure continuity of care during all phases of the pandemic. COVID-19-associated mental health risks will disproportionately hit children and adolescents who are already disadvantaged and marginalized.”
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.
A recent article in USA TODAY (June 20, 2020) speaks to the rising rates of suicide among African American youth: “quaranteens” of colour have to deal with the disproportionate COVID-19 death toll in black communities, social isolation and the “vicarious trauma of police violence”. In all communities, suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for young people in Canada despite extensive mental health and suicide prevention messaging over the past several years.
Recently, I reached out to Dr. Ian Dawe, Program Chief & Medical Director, Mental Health-Trillium Health Partners & Associate Professor of Psychiatry University of Toronto, to share the warning signs of someone who may be suicidal:
“Watch for ANY significant changes in behaviour, significant mood changes or social withdrawal. People who are suicidal will usually say things that indicate they are in pain and want help. Pay attention to the things they are saying, particularly expressions of hopelessness, isolation, low self-esteem, psychological pain, feeling worthless or being a burden to others or actual expressions of wanting to die. While everyone may feel these things at some time or another, it is when these feelings start interfering with our lives, we need to seek help.”
Dr. Dawe is also a partner with Project Now, a cross sector collaboration that improves access to mental health services in schools, hospitals and community-based agencies with a mission to end child and youth suicide in the Dufferin-Peel region by 2029. “When considering the worst-case outcome of unmet mental health needs, 10 youth died by suicide and 157 youth attempted suicide in Peel Region in 2016, an increase of 52% from 2012”.
If a friend shares information with you about harming themselves or you suspect that someone is thinking about suicide do not be afraid to ask, “how are you doing?” Be direct and compassionate and ask the person “if they are thinking about suicide?” Let them know that help is available and that you will be there for them. This will be difficult but discussing suicide in a safe and calm manner can save a life.
Dr. Dawe also suggests the following:
• Listen carefully - let them express themselves.
• Be non-judgmental.
• Don’t react with anger or shock and resist temptation to try to fix their problems.
• Acknowledge their perspective and validate their feelings.
You alone cannot “solve” the problem. Suicidal thoughts are complex and arise from many factors. Dr. Dawe points out that,“both you and they need help to navigate the issues involved in suicide. Call a crisis centre for advice on the type of help your friend or loved one needs and available resources.” crisisservicescanada.ca
If you are having difficulty sharing your own emotional pain, please call a crisis centre for support: crisisservicescanada.ca.
You can also receive support via text or phone at kidshelpphone.ca. Reach out to someone you trust. For more online suicide prevention resources and tools, check out jack.org and Youth at Risk Suicide Resource Toolkit.
Dr. Ian Dawe, Program Chief & Medical Director, Mental Health-Trillium Health Partners & Associate Professor of Psychiatry University of Toronto
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
USA Today (06/20/20)