To create a proactive dialogue on suicide to break the stigma that surrounds it by showing portraits and sharing stories of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide in a book and gallery exhibits. Further, we will advocate for gatekeeper training as a way of continuing a knowledge-based dialogue for professionals and community members as a whole.
Founded by Scott Chisholm, the Collateral Damage Project works to prevent suicide in by stomping stigma, creating proactive dialogue and pushing for gatekeeper training. With open communication at its heart, the project includes a touring gallery exhibition and book (both depicting portraits of those “left behind” by a loved one’s suicide), a number of annual fundraising events and local, national and international speaking appearances by Chisholm and members of the advisory team, some of Canada’s most respected and recognized athletes, musicians and doctors. In 2012, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health honoured Chisholm with a prestigious Champions of Mental Health Award.
Goals for the project;
- create a proactive dialogue on suicide and mental health
- lessen the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental health
- create a series of portraits of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide that will be part of a book and gallery exhibits
- advocate for curriculum, policy and legislation changes for education and training on suicide awareness and mental health including SafeTALK and Mental Health First Aid
- provide factual and evidence based information and links on suicide and mental health
The Four Pillars of the Collateral Damage Project
1) Stigma Reduction;
Of all the stories that we’ve received, stigma remains the greatest obstacle not only to help those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide but also for those who are seeking help with their thoughts of suicide. Through the images and stories, we are able to break the stigma in a unique, effective and universal way. Story telling and putting faces to those who have lost ones and friends to suicide is a powerful tool in creating a national dialogue on suicide and mental health. We have started long lasting conversation with families, workplaces and leaders of the future through universities and colleges across Canada. Further, our advisory team, some of Canada’s most respected and recognized athletes and musicians are passionate about breaking the stigma on behalf of the Collateral Damage Project.
“The fight against stigma and it’s consequences has been considered by a number of international organizations now to be the most important challenge of our time,”
Dr. Heather Stuart, Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair
“Scott I am so very proud of you and all of the wonderful work you have done for all of us. You have given so many of us great strength to carry on and carry forward. I think photographs speak volumes and need no words, rather like an art gallery where the painting tells the story. Taking the stigma away will help families be able to grieve and celebrate the life of the person they lost and not have to worry about what the rest of the world is saying.
Thanks so much Scott.” Pat (viewed the interim exhibit in Halifax Nova Scotia)
“I feel very strongly that Scott’s plan will create healthier
dialogue around suicide, especially with those left behind by
suicide. This dialogue is a missing piece and critical element in
the process of “healthy” grieving and in healthy closure.” Susan Aglukark, 3 time Juno Award winner.
2) Creating a Proactive Dialogue;
Whether it’s in a campus community, workplace or for professionals, by advocating for gatekeeper training (SafeTALK, Mental Health First Aid or ASIST), we are creating suicide safer communities and creating greater access to care by advocating for curriculum changes for; Nurses, Physicians, Teachers, First Responders, Coaches (through Coaching Canada). In working with First Nations and Inuit Communities and First Nations and Inuit organizations we are creating a conversation in areas of Canada that are challenged by the highest suicide rates in the world. By starting this long overdue conversation and collaborating with existing mental health organizations in small and large communities across Canada we are helping Canadians reach out for help when and where they need it.
The Collateral Damage interim (Nova Scotia) exhibit is the tool that creates not only dialogue but also engagement in suicide prevention and mental health awareness as it travel throughout Nova Scotia.
“I recently attended your keynote address at the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association National Conference in Halifax, NS. I (and I can promise many other students as well) was extremely moved by your presentation. You have inspired me to want to stand up & do something about suicide prevention. “I have contacted Heather in hopes of receiving more information about safeTALK training (pricing, size of groups, etc.). We are hoping to be able to implement this training into our nursing program at StFX. If this is successful in our program, we’d also love to see it implemented in other areas of our campus including the education faculty, peer mentoring programs, and residence staff. We would also be ecstatic to see this program offered at local high schools. It would also be my hope that teachers would participate in training as well, in order to be able to recognize signs of suicidal thoughts among students. We want as many people as possible to be able to take action against suicide prevention. Even if one life is saved, this mission will have been a success.
Thanks again for inspiring so many nursing students across Canada to become active in suicide prevention. Every student in attendance left the room feeling moved, inspired, and wanting to make a difference.” Maggie Gilles, Nursing Student at Saint Francis Xavier University.
“The second year class just had the session on suicide prevention and preparedness. The session was perhaps one of the most applicable and useful coordination sessions I have had in my time at NOSM. I think that Scott should be brought back to talk to the other classes of learners this year.” Laura Williams, Medical Student,Northern Ontario Medical School.
“To say that you have fuelled a response is an understatement….I am still meeting students who are in the Concurrent Ed program, School of Education at Laurentian who are STILL talking about last Thursday’s presentation, Scott—and it’s now 7 days later. I think one of the most moving comments was made by a guest teacher in the audience, who disclosed that her teenage son ended his life on his birthday—and the spiralling emotional rollercoaster that followed for her and for her family after this tragedy. I like your message about getting serious about training for people who are working with people–all people, and the importance you place on getting folks talking about suicide.” Jan Buley, Professor of Education, Laurentian University.
“First of all we need to thank you for taking the time to speak with us. The continuous dialogue between students in the Faculty of Education on Thursday, I had never seen anything quite like it. I did have the opportunity to briefly hear you speak previously, as I am a member of the Interdisciplinary development series that Gayle Adams-Carpino is hosting, and yet again I sat there with goosebumps the entire time. Hearing the stories of my fellow students and knowing that they have been impacted by suicide in their lives in some way shape or form really speaks volumes as to how common this is and how imperative it is that something be done about it.” Ben Skillings, Education student, Laurentian University
“I just completed my Bachelor of Social Work at Ryerson University in Toronto. Not an ounce of the suicide prevention and intervention knowledge I have today was gained from my formal university education.” Jenn Ward, Graduate of Social Work, Ryerson University.
As a professional Firefighter and previously a Paramedic, I have seen first hand and experienced the the direct affects of mental health in the workplace. I believe that as a first step in creating a ‘mental healthier’ workplace, SafeTALK (3 hours workshop) ought to be mandated wherever CPR, First Aid and WHIMIS are now in place. CPR and First Aid are in place to keep workers safe and keep them alive in critical incidents…this is also what SafeTALK does. By introducing SafeTALK in the workplace, we will break the stigma that surrounds mental health and begin the change for greater access to better mental health information and services. It is my hope that mental health ‘injuries/illness’ will be seen and treated with the same urgency as physical injuries in the workplace. Further, all of these tools learned in the workplace will be taken home and used with our families.
It all starts with leadership. Without leadership, making mental health in the workplace a priority as part of workers safety, we will continue to not only miss the astronomical costs associated with mental health to corporations, but more importantly we will continue to stigmatize and make worse the mental health of workers in Canada.
“The (SafeTALK) workshop went extremely well with very lively discussion. We could have used another three hours easily.” Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, after taking SafeTALK.
The Collateral Damage Project is pleased to have Dr. Lisa Robinson-Kitt – B.A. (S.F.U.), M.A. (U.B.C.), Ph.D. (U.B.C.) working with us to measure the work that we do, including; the effectiveness of SafeTALK on Nursing students, measuring empathy, fear and shame. The sharing of stories through the Collateral Damage Project provides great opportunities for research and our affect on social change.
More information on research to follow.
About the Project
“Collateral Damage, Images of Those Left Behind by Suicide,” will be a book of portraits, website and gallery exhibition of people who have had loved ones and friends die by suicide. When I was 17 years old (I’m now 46) my father died by suicide. Although I never hid the fact that my father took his own life, I often felt that I was left dealing with my pain and recovery in solitude, social stigma and loneliness. Throughout my professional career as a Paramedic and Firefighter, I often saw the beginning of the same pattern in the suicide calls that I attended to. I so often found myself wanting to say to grieving and demolished family members, “I know how you feel.” This pattern leaves the survivors of today feeling the same way I did 29 years ago. It is my hope that this project will begin to change this.
The idea of putting a face to the loved ones and friends of those who have died by suicide has been with me for over ten years. I passionately believe that by stepping “out of the dark” and showing that I am a survivor of suicide will help those who are faced with a similar life changing experience today. I also believe that a collection of images of survivors will not only create a path of healing but also help with the social stigmas that continue to plague the issues of suicide and mental health.
For this project, I am the sole photographer as I believe strongly that my vision and how it is photographed and presented is a message within itself. The images will be accompanied by short stories that individuals will share about their journey in suicide survivorship.
The Collateral Damage Project is a registered not for profit that is governed by a volunteer board of directors. Application has been made for charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency.
What started out as a local and regional project has grown to national in scope due to the demand and response to the invitation to ‘participate’. The direction now is to bring the project across Canada to include people from all Provinces and Territories. Further, we will include a complete demographic scope of relationships that is representative of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide. This will include; parents, siblings, children’s loss of parents, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, GLTB, new immigrants, extended family and friends. Ultimately, when someone loses a loved one or friend to suicide, I want them to be able to “find themselves” within the book/exhibit and know that they are not alone.
When I travel to communities across Canada to meet and photograph people for the project, I will also continue to do public speaking at; Universities, Colleges, community groups and with community leaders to engage a long lasting proactive dialogue on suicide awareness and prevention. We will advocate for gatekeeper training as a tool for creating suicide safer communities.
We will work with our community, provincial and national partners to begin and continue a proactive dialogue on suicide that will ultimately create suicide safer communities.
We will work with and invite researchers (Dr. James Bolton is part of our advisory team), who specialize in suicide, to measure the effectiveness of the Collateral Damage Project and to identify other potential research.
We will continue to foster our partnerships with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, LivingWorks Inc. and the Canadian Mental Health Association through the growth of the Collateral Damage Project. These partnerships will help us ensure that we maintain best practices when talking about suicide and that we adhere to the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s ‘Media Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide’.
We will continue to foster and grow our partnerships with community based suicide prevention coalitions, councils and organizations such as; Waterloo Suicide Prevention Council, Thunder Bay Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force and The Jack Project.