I am truly honoured to be recognized by the Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health as a ‘Champion of Mental Health’ in the private sector for 2012.
It is humbling to be recognized along with; Michael Landsberg, Senator W. David Angus, Dr Trang Dao and the Cardinal Newman Peer Mentors (Stoney Creek, Ontario) for this award.
In June of 2009 we launched the Collateral Damage Project on CBC Radio Ontario Today, with an invitation to those who have lost loved ones or friends to suicide to come forward, be photographed and share their story. We had a mandate of creating a proactive dialogue on suicide to get rid of the stigma that surrounds it by showing images of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide. The idea of putting a face to those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide is at the core of the project and continues to be the greatest strength of creating a long over due dialogue on suicide.
Not talking about it isn’t working.
What started out as a local and regional project quickly became a message that needed to be taken to every province and territory across Canada (and beyond). Olympic swimming great, Alex Baumann quickly joined the project (and our Advisory Team) in sharing his story of losing his brother Roman to suicide. Stories came in from all across Canada. From the smallest of remote communities to our largest metropolitan centres, the stories are heart wrenching beyond any description that words could hold. Brothers, sisters, dads, moms, grandparents, sons, daughters, friends, team mates, the stories exclude no one. Perhaps that is one of the most significant lessons I have learned, suicide does not discriminate. It does not matter where you are from, how old you are, how much money you make or the job that you have, suicide can affect anyone and does affect everyone.
About two years ago, singer/songwriter and advisor to the Collateral Damage Project Susan Aglukark, asked, “Scott, what do you want people to do?” As she waited for the answer I realized what I wanted. I wanted those around me, when I lost my Dad to suicide (1982) to have the tools to let me talk about losing my hero and the most important man in my life to suicide. I also wanted those around my Dad to have the strength and the ‘tools’ to talk to him when they felt that he was thinking about suicide. The warning signs were there with my Dad and thirty years later I have learned them.
I’ve learned the warning signs and so can you. Learning about suicide will help create a proactive dialogue based on knowledge, caring and understanding. We can put ‘tools’ in our ‘toolboxes’ that allow us to talk about suicide, especially when someone we know is having thoughts of suicide. Professionals such as; teachers, social workers, coaches, firefighters, paramedics should all have ‘gatekeeper’ training such as SafeTALK or ASIST. Training is available in your community. Let’s work together in creating suicide safer communities with an open and knowledgeable dialogue on suicide.
If you have lost a loved one or friend to suicide, I invite you to come forward, share your story and be a part of the Collateral Damage Project. Click here for the ‘Participate’ page.
As a ‘Champion of Mental Health’ I look forward to continuing an open and proactive dialogue on suicide and invite you to join in the conversation.
NOT TALKING ABOUT IT ISN’T WORKING.