September 28, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

Suicide is a topic that not many talk about. The Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council is trying to change that, in part by holding a community event meant to help those affected by suicide find a place where they won’t be ignored.

Sept. 10 marked the 10th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day, a day designated by the World Health Organization in order to bring awareness and education on a global scale.

The Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council (WRSPC) celebrated the day with their annual community butterfly release in Kitchener’s Victoria Park.

People from all over Kitchener-Waterloo attended the event, which offered a number of informational booths on everything from nutrition to emotional and spiritual health.

Tana Nash, WRSPC co-ordinator, said the council wanted to emphasize the importance of physical health which plays a big part in everyone’s life.

“People don’t realize it’s as important to maintain a healthy lifestyle as it is to find an emotional balance.”

The event brought in more people than last year, almost doubling in attendance.

“This year’s turnout was our largest yet,” she said. “Seeing so many families at the event with young children highlights how we are becoming more comfortable saying the word suicide.”

Nash said bringing people together at an event such as World Suicide Prevention Day is a very healing process for those bereaved by suicide.

“Knowing that you’re not alone is very comforting and it’s a safe place to talk about the person you’re missing without being judged.”

The World Health Organization website states that over one million people worldwide die every year due to suicide, including around 4,000 Canadians.

Tenille Maher has been a volunteer with the WRSPC for the past four months and experienced the annual butterfly release for the first time this year.

“It was really beautiful to see,” she said. “There was a great sense of community and it was great to see people come together for this sort of thing, something that is just never discussed.”

The butterfly release, which was sponsored by the Lisa Brown Charitable Foundation, held a different meaning for everyone involved.

Maher said the event brought out a different side of how she saw her personal situation.

“I thought it was interesting that some of the butterflies were still sleeping,” she said. “It almost symbolized how you hang on to things and eventually you let go. It was a really good way of letting go and dealing with grief.”

The release was followed by guest speakers Allan Strong, who talked about skills for safer living, and Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht, who spoke to the crowd about Bill C-300, which calls for a national strategy for suicide prevention.

Nash said the council hopes that events like this one will encourage people in the community to feel comfortable talking about suicide in hopes of helping families heal.

“People are starting to say enough is enough.”

If you are in crisis, call Crisis Services of Waterloo Region at 519-744-1813 or 1-800-366-4566.