Coping with a parent’s suicide: “It’s been a difficult journey, to say the least”

Dianne Young organized and spoke at the World Suicide Prevention Day event at Queen Elizabeth Park on Sept. 10. Brenlee Brothers photo.

By Brenlee Brothers

Oct. 5, 2016

Sophia Ball knows what it’s like to lose someone you love to suicide. And on Sept. 10 she stood in front of 50 people at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Charlottetown to share her story.

Following her mother’s suicide, she had to start defining a new normal, said Ball.

“It’s been a difficult journey, to say the least.”

Mental illness not only affects the individual, their family and friends, it can also ripple through the entire community, Ball said.

“All too often, this subject is swept under the carpet – talked about only in hushed whispers – due to the attached stigmas and sensitivity of the topic.”

If we hope to make real change, we must be willing to make this a subject that is easy to talk about, Ball said.

“There is a special power in giving voice to our experiences and supporting one and other.”

Being able to talk and connect with someone who also lost a loved one to suicide really helped her, she said.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a number of resources specifically designed for survivors of suicide loss, she said.

“The information in their Grief After Suicide brochure and their Survivor’s of Suicide information kit help guide individuals and families through the early stages of suicide grief.”

Pat Doyle outlined some of the highlights in suicide prevention efforts.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is developing a national framework for suicide prevention, which will mean huge things at the provincial and local level, said Doyle, the Island’s suicide prevention coordinator.

In the past year, the provincial government through Health PEI has made several new investments in mental health and addictions programming for its young people, Doyle said.

“We’ve made some tremendous efforts, but there is a lot of work to do.”

The CMHA is marking World Suicide Prevention Day by launching a new training program, Suicide to Hope, Doyle said.

“This will build capacity within our province, within our health system, to be able to respond to those that are in distress or crisis and need that level of support.”

Dianne Young lost her son to suicide in November, 2013. She organized the World Suicide Prevention Day event on Saturday.

Government representatives and policy makers have to care enough about suicide prevention to make it a priority in our health care system, she said.

“We need to talk about suicide as we would any other health issue in order to reduce the stigmas surrounding it.”

Charlottetown councillor Mitch Tweel said although we are unsure of the statistics in this province, suicide has affected many different people.

“There are really no words to describe what a person goes through when they decide to take those actions,” he said.

“Whatever I can do to help, I’m not far away.”