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Mental health advocates urge people to ‘be the light' as part of World Suicide Prevention Day

Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation. Take care when reading.

Suicide continues to be a major issue facing the region. According to the Suicide Safer Network, northern Ontario has a suicide rate that is three times higher than the provincial average.

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, which is recognized in 50 countries, organizations and agencies gathered Sunday afternoon in Greater Sudbury’s Bell Park.

Mark Fraser is the executive director for COMPASS in Sudbury and also works with the Suicide Safer Network.

“As every year, I am blown away over the enthusiasm in which we create this safe space to honour those who have lost their lives and those who have been affected by suicide,” said Fraser.

“This year we heard some very powerful and amazing stories and for me, it’s really remarkable this year to have our host of community stakeholders come out on a Sunday – every year on Sept. 10, between one and four.”

Among those who were asked to share their story, was Const. James Jefferson, the mental health and wellness officer for Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS).

Jefferson shared his own struggles in how he overcame thoughts of suicide and PTSD following a traumatic moment in his career 15 years ago.

“One specific night, the pain was just too much,” he told the crowd.

“I believe unequivocally that this trauma, my pain, my depression and the anxiety was the be all and end all of who I was and I believed I would never have another day without this weight, this pain on my shoulders and I made the choice that I was going to end my life.”

Jefferson said it was his prayer to God to give him strength, the love of his family and his support network that helped him in that dark moment.

After a few years off work, he returned to his job at GSPS and has since served as a mentor and a model to others to be cognoscenti of their own struggles and their mental health.

The long-time police officer told CTV News, that seeing so many out at the park was a moving moment.

“People are very inspirational and there is a lot of good energy here,” he said.

“We’re all here supporting a cause to help others and to really minimize that stigma that comes with mental health and suicidality and encouraging others to talk about it and to embrace their vulnerability.”

Kaitlyn Kotila also shared her story at the event – she had lost a close personal friend who was 14 years old and how it affected the rest of her life.

Kotila said seeing so many providers at one park, at one time, gave her strength.

“In order to address the suicide crisis that we have here and across the globe, we have to have an open dialogue on mental health and suicide,” she said.

“We need to be talking about it, we need to be aware of the signs and symptoms and we need to be aware of how we can prevent it.”

Deputy Mayor Al Sizer was on hand to help proclaim the day ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ in the city.

“Events like today are so important towards helping and empowering our community and raising awareness will further reduce the stigma,” he said.

“This is a day of reflection.”

“If we have those conversations, if we let people know that it’s safe to talk about it, safe to say I’m struggling, you’re more likely to be able to get help and have those services provided to you,” said Sudbury MPP Jamie West.

According to Suicide Safer Network, Northern Ontario has a suicide rate that is three times higher than the provincial average. (File photo)If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available.

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645), Centre for Suicide Prevention (1-833-456-4566) or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Top Stories

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