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On Thursday I had a direct message conversation with an old online friend. Please allow me to relay the opening parts of my conversation:

OF:  hey John. Long take since we chatted. I was wondering if you could help me. I’m trying to find the national suicide hotline number.

JD:  sadly there is no such number in Canada. You can find a local number through this link 

OF:  Thanks anyways John. There is no number where I live. I called Calgary, the closest center, and was told they don’t cover Red Deer

Can you imagine how helpless someone must feel in that situation? You feel suicidal, you call the only number available to you and you’re told they won’t help because you live in the wrong area. It’s a disgrace that the hotline didn’t offer help, that they turned away someone in such desperate need of help.

It is, and has been for too many years, a national disgrace that Canada doesn’t have a national suicide prevention hotline. But it’s a disgrace that’s about to change. The unanswered question, though, is how many more lives will be lost to suicide while the new system slowly comes online?

I don’t raise that question lightly. Canada suffers approximately 4,000 deaths by suicide each year. That equates to some 10 deaths per day. That means that since the Federal Government announced the creation of a national hotline on November 24, 2016 some 1,940 Canadians have potentially taken their lives. By the time the hotline goes live, in late 2017, 4,000 deaths may have occurred. That is inexcusable.

The sad fact is that each of these deaths is preventable. This truth has been known for many years. Yet, despite this knowledge, year after year a national service was denied us and thousands have paid the price.

Yes, there are local numbers that people can call. But as the conversation above reveals, not everyone is fortunate enough to live where a local number is available. Yes, you can call 911 or go to your hospital emergency room. Sadly, those services are overburdened and, when it comes to mental health, perhaps under-trained. Wouldn’t it be better to dial a single number and have your call directed to someone trained to help? Shouldn’t all Canadians have access?

Canada doesn’t yet have a national number. For that, Canada should be ashamed.

If you are feeling suicidal, please visit http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/ and click on your Province to find a service that can help you. And please keep the following facts in mind:

Some Important Facts We Would Like to Share with You

Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated.

Clinical depression, anxiety disorders, chemical dependency, and other disorders produce profound emotional distress. They also interfere with effective problem-solving. But you need to know that studies show that the vast majority of people who receive appropriate treatment improve or recover completely. Even if you have received treatment before, you should know that different treatments work better for different people in different situations. Several tries are sometimes necessary before the right combination is found.

If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that solutions don’t exist, only that you are currently unable to see them.

Therapists and counselors (and sometimes friends) can help you to see solutions that otherwise are not apparent to you.

Suicidal crises are almost always temporary.

Although it might seem as if your unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually time-limited. Solutions are found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Suicide is sometimes referred to as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Don’t let suicide rob you of better times that will come your way when you allow more time to pass.

Problems are seldom as great as they appear at first glance.

Job loss, financial problems, loss of important people in our lives – all such stressful events can seem catastrophic at the time they are happening. Then, months or years later, they usually look smaller and more manageable. Sometimes, imagining ourselves “five years down the road” can help us to see that a problem that currently seems catastrophic will pass and that we will survive.

Reasons for living can help sustain a person in pain.

A famous psychologist once conducted a study of Nazi concentration camp survivors, and found that those who survived almost always reported strong beliefs about what was important in life. You, too, might be able to strengthen your connection with life if you consider what has sustained you through hard times in the past. Family ties, religion, love of art or nature, and dreams for the future are just a few of the many aspects of life that provide meaning and gratification, but which we can lose sight of due to emotional distress.

Do not keep suicidal thoughts to yourself!

Help is available for you, whether through a friend, therapist, or member of the clergy. Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. This can be your first step on the road to healing. Contact a crisis centre.

Sources: Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, suicideprevention.ca and the American Association for Suicidology, www.suicidology.org


About John Dickson

A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.

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