Monday marked World Suicide Prevention Day, and health experts in Sudbury want to raise awareness about the risk of suicide.

They say it's a problem that affects Northern Ontario more than other parts of Canada.  

Health Sciences North in Sudbury is issuing a warning: suicide is a more prevalent problem in Northern Ontario because of higher rates of psychiatric illness and substance abuse.

"When people suffer from psychiatric illnesses and substance abuse, they are on a downward drift economically. So, therefore the rates of homelessness, the rates of social isolation is probably very high in Northern Ontario and therefore the rates of suicide would be definitely higher." said Dr. Lakyntiew Aulakh, a staff psychiatrist at HSN.

Dr. Aulakh says the risk of suicide is similar for men and women, but more men die by suicide.  

"When they think of suicide, they choose means that are more lethal, like hanging, like using a gun." said Aulakh.

The numbers from the Ontario coroner's office shows 22 men and five women took their lives in Sudbury in 2015 and in 2016, 18 men and 2 women died by suicide.

Experts say prevention comes down to openly talking about the problem.

It's why the Sudbury branch of Canadian Mental Health Association held an awareness event at Bell Park.

"The butterfly release is just kind of a way to honor those who have died by suicide and kind of take that ceremonial moment to commemorate those that we've lost." said Emily Zanini of CMHA.

Officials say butterflies have long been a symbol in suicide prevention, for hope, peace and renewal.

The event also involved an information fair, speeches from people affected by suicide, plus there was music and a barbecue, all part of an evening of information, awareness and support.

A number of groups also gathered in North Bay to raise more awareness about suicide prevention.

Representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Military Family Resource Centre, Badge of Life, and local dignitaries shared their connections to mental health and suicide.

 “In my family we've had three connections to suicide, but on a larger scale I think it’s something we need to make a big change about. And this day, along with a lot of other events that are happening around the country and around the world is just a small step towards making a big change and promoting mental wellbeing.” said North Bay event co-ordinator Erin Celebre.

The CMHA in North Bay says this year it is spreading the message that suicide can affect anyone.

“The important thing to realize is that more police die by suicide than due to violence from people they encounter in law enforcement.” said Stan French of Badge of Life.

“For far too long we've been silent and that isn’t working. So we need to change things and we need to start talking about suicide so that as a community we can come together and support each other.” said Tricia Grynspan of The North East Suicide Prevention Network.

Experts tell us suicide is caused by a multitude of complex factors, adding identifying the warning signs and being supportive can save lives.

"Just noticing changes in behavior, whether it's mood, or they're expressing feeling hopeless or helpless." said Zanini.

"There is evidence that says that if we intervene, if we treat it, there is prevention of suicide." said Aulakh.

Indigenous people are particularly affected with the number of suicides between five and seven times higher than in the rest of the population.

The CMHA adds that stigma remains the single most significant barrier to suicide prevention.