About the Collateral Damage Project
Founded by Scott Chisholm, the Collateral Damage Project works to prevent suicide in Canada 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.
With all the work we are doing across Canada with the Collateral Damage Project, it seems sometimes we lose sight of the power and strength of our core mandate which is “to create a book and gallery exhibit of portraits and stories of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide.” This is what makes the our message so powerful and creates the stage for long lasting social change.
“A moving and cultural shifting exhibit. It is promising to have someone challenge the stigma & judgement. I hope you continue on this important journey.” JHL, viewer of the Collateral Damage interim (Nova Scotia) exhibit.
We need your help to complete the book and exhibit.
With our team that continues to build, the collaborations and partnerships we continue to develop daily, perhaps that is what is attracting so many to our mission… the understanding that we can’t just take one demographic, issue or aspect of suicide prevention in hopes that we will make the social change that is so desperately needed.
When I set out on the Collateral Damage Project, I wanted to create a proactive dialogue on suicide to get rid of the stigma that surrounds it by showing images and stories of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide. I believe, and our evidence shows, that our work with the images and stories has greatest impact in these core areas;
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.
“I am passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, I to lost my father to suicide in 1978.” Russ Courtnall, former NHL star.
2) Accessing care in our communities. 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.
3) Workplace. 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 working with researchers from across Canada. More information to follow.
The Collateral Damage Project interim exhibit continues to travel throughout Nova Scotia and with it there is a journal for viewers to write their comments. The comments and feedback are the clear evidence why the national book and exhibits need to be completed.
“Wow! Your presentation (exhibit) was well delivered and defined. Suicide has been present in my family. The stigma of mental illness has to be stopped.” Blessings, Jayne
“I’ve viewed the collection on three occasions and have not been able to find the appropriate sentiment to express. However I will try by describing these remarkable portraits as courageous.”
“This is nice.”
“Such an important message. You are not alone.”
“An amazing project! After dealing with a suicide of my ex last friday this helps in knowing how others feel and that he wasn’t alone. It’s not an uncommon thing and we need to remember those by their life, not their death.”
“Raising awareness, fostering understanding & offering help & hope are so needed. Thank you for your work in all of these areas & for this poignant display.” Jennifer Langley.
“What a stunning display.” Erica Works.
“Scott, a painful subject that was beautifully demonstrated. I am full of emotion.” Thank you, Sandra.
“A very needed and moving exhibit. Thanks.” Becky Main.
“Thank you for the important work you have done. It is inspirational to see the dialogue you have started.” Jane Power-Grimm.
“Thank you for starting the dialogue and smashing the stigma. You’re exhibit is incredibly moving, life changing.” Bill G.
So our mandate remains, “to create a book and gallery exhibit of portraits and stories of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide.” Without looking closer, it could be seen as “just a book”. However, when you read the stories and see the images, you quickly learn that we are truly on the cusp of social change on suicide awareness and prevention in Canada as well as making the talk on mental health one that can no longer be ignored.
Thank you, because ‘Not Talking About it Isn’t Working.’
Scott Chisholm, Founder of the Collateral Damage Project.
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