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ribbonSeptember 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

The numbers are appalling. In Canada, we have 4,000 deaths by suicide each year. But more shocking is the number of suicide attempts – 100,000 of them annually. The vast majority of those attempting suicide are female –  women are ten times more likely than men to attempt suicide. The vast majority of those who succeed are male – men are up to four times more likely than women to succeed.

Yet, despite these very disturbing facts, suicide continues to be a taboo subject. It is time for suicide, and its sibling, mental illness, to stop being ignored or hidden and step out of the shadows and into public debate. It is time to accept that mental health is equally as important as physical health, and that ignoring this truth can, and does, lead to fatal consequences.

Let me be open. I am one of those statistics. My survival was mere happenstance. What has happened since, though, is not happenstance but choice.

On September 2, 2014, after having suffered through a depressive episode spanning years, I attempted to take my own life. Through chance, my life was saved. But I very quickly determined that the only way for my life to continue was for me to change how I conducted myself. Specifically, I had to stop being the extremely private person that I was and become more open.

You see, I am an introvert. I am a private person. I suffer from depressive episodes. Now known to me, but not known then, I am also statistically at the highest level of risk for suicide – single white male, unemployed, over 50. As a male, as an introvert, as a person going through a depressive episode, communication was low on my list of preferred things to do. Very low. Together, these truths created a situation where I became too private, disclosing nothing about myself and isolating myself from all social interaction. This created, to my great misfortune, an ideal breeding ground for suicidal ideation. And I succumbed to it.

Obviously, I survived. But my decision to be more open has had profound consequences for me. It has led to my presence first on Google Blogger and subsequently on WordPress where I openly share my story. It has also led to my presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Twitter led to my contacting Healthy Minds Canada and becoming a guest blogger. Twitter also led to my contacting the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) and, ultimately, my discovery of World Suicide Prevention Day.

September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Those who die by suicide and those who attempt suicide are not mere statistics. Each has a story, and more often than not, the story includes a very preventable death or attempted death. I say this, because I am one of those stories. My actions were preventable, if I had the knowledge and wherewithal to follow through on it.

I first became aware of Mark Henick, through his Tedx talk. If you haven’t yet watched it, please do. I then came across Mark’s blog “A Bond as Powerful as Certainty” in which he wrote a powerful letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. It begins, “Suicide is a preventable public health problem.”

Each year, Canada experiences 4,000 needless deaths and 100,000 attempted deaths. Each is preventable.

September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

In recognition of the statistics I quoted above, CASP seeks to distribute 100,000 yellow and orange ribbons across Canada to bring this issue to public awareness. CASP, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), is bringing us Mysterious Barricades a free cross-Canada concert to promote suicide awareness, prevention and hope.

For my part, I have prepared 100 of these ribbons and I will be handing them out at my local CMHA branch. I will also be participating in a video interview to be hosted on the CMHA-Dufferin website. I do these things, not for personal glory, but because I am one of the statistics.

September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Let’s all do our part to make this day unnecessary in 2017.

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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