Lifting the Silence Memorial Walk

It was a soggy, gloomy and sad day.  It felt as if the weather deliberately set the tone for the annual Lifting the Silence Memorial Walk on September 10th, 2018.  It was the perfect setting for remembering those whose lives were tragically lost to suicide.

The brave organizers and volunteers were not discouraged by the weather.  They quickly got to work, setting up tables, chairs and technical support for the event on the stage in Victoria Park.  Soon, the place was ready with a Survival Photo Exhibit ready to be viewed, an activity table to paint a rock, a Reforest London table to take a seedling to plan in honour of a loved one, a Mission Services table with information, a Why We March LGBT table to share colouring books and inspirational quotes and, refreshment provided with the help of Metro Stores to be enjoyed.  With all tables set and the crowd gathered, the event began.

MCs Cassandra Taylor and Sunday Ajak announced the speakers and artists who participated.  First, the Nokee Kwe Positive Drum group provided an Indigenous drumming and singing ceremony.

Soon after, the silent walk began to remembered those whose lives were tragically cut short by suicide.  Some people shed tears and others made their way through the park silently, contemplating with heavy hearts.

After the walk, MPP Peggy Sattler and MPP Terence Kernaghan gave speeches about the importance of mental health.  They both received an applause when they called on the Provincial Government to provide more support for mental  health initiatives.

Dennise Mincinnick shared a heartfelt personal story about loss, after which the names of those who were lost to suicide were read out loud.  The artist Tyler shared a poem, Cheryl Wituik an insightful reading and, M. J. Mandoki her fictional story called “The Dance of the Fairies”.

The event ended with songs by the very talented duo of Bernie Gilmore and Briana Kennedy.  The music  brought tears to some and warmed the heart of many gathered in the cold, chilly evening.

The Mcs delivered the closing remarks thanking all organizations who made this event possible, such as My Sister’s Place for donating tables and RBC for their continuing support.

The event was very successful.  People who lost loved ones to suicide walked away knowing that their beloved family members and friends have been remembered and  that they will forever remain in the hearts of the community.

M. J.  Mandoki

Suicide and Near-Death Experiences

Many people who have a brush with death experience what came to be known as a near-death experience (NDE).  Many of them are pronounced clinically dead by doctors; yet, they have a story to tell about an experience they went through in this state.  The experience ranges from being in an out-of-body state, traveling through a tunnel into a light, meeting with decease relatives, to feeling like they are in the presence of God.  Although some have negative experiences, most speak of a wonderful life waiting for them in the beyond.

With the description of mostly wonderful experiences, serious questions arise about the fate of those who are suicidal.  Do people who attempt suicide have these experiences?  Are their experiences different from those who are dying of other causes?  Is there any punishment waiting in the beyond for trying to end one’s own life?  What do people say who survive a suicide attempt?

Originally, some early research suggested that individuals who attempted suicide were less likely to have NDEs and their experiences are shorter, containing less features (Ring, 1980).  However, later research disputed these findings (Greyson & Flynn, 1984; Greyson, 1991).  They have not seen any serious quantitative or qualitative differences between NDEs due to suicide attempts and NDEs due to other causes.  Those who attempt suicide are just as likely to have NDEs and their experiences can be as positive as other people’s experiences.

Suicide attempt survivors do not experience punishment beyond death for the reason of trying to end their own lives (Moody, 1975).  In fact, they generally have an overwhelmingly positive experience coming back.  They speak of the same beautiful places waiting for people in the beyond as other people do.

Does this positive outlook put people in the danger of trying to end their lives?  For the majority, this is not the case.  There are reasons for not having to be afraid of a negative outcome.  Even early researchers have argued that the experiences offer people a positive outlook on life (Moody, 1975; Ring, 1980).  Those who come back seem to believe that life is more about love and knowledge than about anything else.  They see life in a better perspective, have greater self-confidence and, acknowledge the fact that since life does not end with death, escaping this worldly existence is not the answer to any problems.

However, many survivors of NDEs do suffer from depression for a while after the experience.  After the positive experience of the beyond, they have difficulties returning to this earthly existence (Ring, 1984).  Some wish they did not have to come back and some do try to end their lives.  This means that some people need help to readjust to this earthly life after their experience.

Overall, those who have NDEs while trying to end their lives do not have different experiences from anyone else who go through these experiences.  However, as always, suicide attempt survivors do need a lot of support from those around them.

Print References:

Greyson, B and Flynn, C. P. (1984). The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives.  Springfield:  C. C. Thomas.

Greyson, B. (1991). Encyclopaedia Britannica: 1992 Medical Health Annual.  E. Bernstein (Ed.). Chicago:  Encyclopaedia Britannica Special Section, pp. 45-55

Moody, R. A. Jr. (1975). Life After Life. New York: Bantam Books.

Ring, K. (1980). Life at Death: A Scientific Explanation of Near-Death Experience. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan.

Ring, K. (1984). Heading Toward Omega: In Search of the Meaning of the Near-Death Experience. New York: William Morrow.

Talking About Suicide: The Challenge of Finding a Definition

What is suicide?  The question seems to be simple, but finding a proper answer is a challenge.  In the scientific literature, at least 15 different definitions exist for the word “suicide” (Silverman, 2006).  What makes it so hard to find a proper definition?  Why do even scientist struggle with the word “suicide”?

The reason that it is so hard to find a definition is the obscurity and confusion about the related terminologies, such as “suicidality”, “suicide attempt” and “intent to die” (Silverman, 2013).  For example, it is unclear what suicidality actually means.  Even though the term indicates that a person is in the state of being suicidal, it is not clear whether the term refers to the state of intent, planning, execution or post action and recovery.  Therefore, it is possible to equate it with cognition, behaviour, emotion or the combination of any of them.  The result is that it makes it certainly confusing to talk about suicidality.

The same issue comes up in relation to suicide attempt.  What does it mean to attempt suicide?  Often,  the idea of attempt is connected to the idea of having an intent to die.  However, many suicidal individuals do not actually plan to die.  Often, being suicidal is a call for help rather than a death wish.  Therefore, connecting suicide attempt with the action of dying may be misleading.

Finding a proper understanding of the “intent to die” is just as, if not more, challenging.  Some people may harm themselves who are not suicidal at all.  For example, according to Scientific American, self-cutting, self-burning or self-beating can be a form of pain relief for people with a chronic pain condition.  Self-injury can make the brain release an extra amount of endorphins to ease the pain.  This means that people who may injure themselves are not necessarily suicidal.  In addition, intent is a state of mind that cannot be scientifically easily measured and some people may not want to admit to having wanted to die when injuring themselves. The feeling of embarrassment, shame or fear may cause them to lie about the event.  It means that it is difficult to see, understand or measure intent.

Without clarity about the terminologies related to suicide, it is difficult to define the word itself.  But, why does having a definition matter?  It matters because, without a proper definition, suicide may be underreported, researchers may misunderstand each other’s studies, and health professionals may be cross-talking and unable to save all those at risks.

It can only be hoped that more attention and resources will be allocated to the importance of finding a proper and acceptable definition in order to make a difference in the lives of those who are suicidal.

M.J. Mandoki

 

Print Resources

Silverman, M. M. (2006).  The language of suicidology. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, 36, 519-532.

Silverman, M. M. (2013). Defining suicide and suicidal behavior. In D. Lester & J. R. Rogers (eds.), Suicide: A Global Issue. pp. 1-30. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Downtown London restaurant changes menu to support mental health

Article from CBC London: Link

Mark Henshaw was reciting familiar dinner options to the table he was serving at a popular downtown restaurant when one word on the menu left a bad taste in his mouth – suicide.

It was used to describe one of four flavour options at Thaifoon Restaurant, which has been a mainstay on Dundas Street for more than a decade.

“It’s much more than just a word,” he said. “Suicide is not a spice. Suicide is a very dark experience that some of us have gone through in our lives.”

Upon reading the menu two weeks ago, Henshaw went into a dark spiral of thoughts, remembering his own grandfather and two high school friends who died by suicide.

He even recalled a darker time when he suffered with severe mental health issues. He was afraid customers could also be negatively affected by what he described as being a trigger word.

“When people hear these words and associate it with an experience that was difficult for them, they’re likely going to get anxious, which will make them uncomfortable and stressed,” he said.

Menu changes

Henshaw approached his manager who didn’t hesitate to change the menu option prior to World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday.

“When I first had these menus printed (in 2014), it never really occurred to me and I don’t think other restaurant owners even think about it,” said Fouzan Beg, the owner of the restaurant.

“It’s such a negative word. Food is such a beautiful thing and associating such a positive thing with such a negative thing doesn’t click.”

Fouzan is reprinting about 5,000 take-out and 100 in-store menus with the word “Thai fire” instead of “suicide.”

Now, he wants other restaurants, and especially eateries that sell wings, to take a similar approach.

‘You have to be sensitive’

Marion Whitfield, who’s the co-chair of the London Middlesex Suicide Prevention council, said many outlets, including restaurants, are famous for misusing trigger words

“I’ve seen it in commercials. I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve seen it in books and some articles in the paper,” she said of the word “suicide” being used as an expressive sentiment.

“You have to be sensitive. You have to really and truly try and stop and think before saying and writing stuff.”

Whitfield said many restaurants could be afraid to remove the word suicide from their menus because it’s a common expression used to describe a spice.

However, both Whitfield and staff at Thaifoon hope that the small actions of one family-owned restaurant will encourage other outlets — and chains — to follow suit.

“This is a small thing. This is words on a page,” said Henshaw. “But, it’s something that could change the way people (think) about something and that’s so powerful.”

2017 Professional Development Day

Postvention: A Community Response in the Aftermath of Suicide

When: Friday Feb 24th, 2017

Location:

Goodwill Building, 3rd Floor, 255 Horton Street London, ON

Time: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (registration begins at 9am)

Cost: $125/p (includes lunch & refreshments)

Payment due upon registration

This trauma informed workshop is intended to provide an overview of grieving in the wake of a death by suicide.  Participants will learn

  • 1) Contemporary approaches to the grieving process
  • 2) Understanding the effects of trauma
  • 3) Exploring the unique features of suicide bereavement
  • 4) Learn the compassionate formula for “healing in helping”

Continue reading “2017 Professional Development Day”