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.”

100 Men Who Care London choose LMSPC

Photo left to right: Rob Crosby, Al Desrochers (100 Men), Lynda Cowie, Catherine McInnes, Charlene Foster, Marion Whitfield (LMSPC), Michael Koenig, Bob Porter (100 Men)

100 Men Who London choose the London-Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council as their June 2014 quarterly donor recipient.

In June 2014, 100 Men Who Care member Bob Porter delivered a passionate plea to 100 Men Who Care London at their quarterly meeting requesting the group consider LMSPC as their June 2014 donor recipient.

Bob’s message was heard loud and clear and the 100 Men Who Care membership voted to select LMSPC as the recipient of their quarterly donation. On July 30, 2014 several members of 100 Men joined LMSPC at the Goodwill Building 255 Horton Street for the official presentation. LMSPC received more than $11,000 to fund the Council’s activities in the coming year.

A big THANK YOU to 100 Men!

To read Bob’s full presentation click here.

“100 Men Who Care London was founded by Michael Koenig, Rob Brown, Mark Mohan, Al Desrochers, Rob Crosby and Jeff Petrie. The goal is to channel the resources of the men in the community to help local charities. Following the simple and impactful model of 100 Women, this chapter intends to collect the greatest amount of donations in the most efficient way possible.”


Fanshawe Student Union Chooses LMSPC for Donation

Fanshawe Student Union Donation to LMSPC comes Full Circle

In April 2014, the Fanshawe Student Union donated $1000 to the London-Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council that was raised at a semi-formal event. What is noteworthy is that the donation was both unexpected and unsolicited. The need to support community based suicide prevention strategies was clearly on the minds of Fanshawe Student Leaders. Then Fanshawe Student Union President Adam Gourlay provided background on the idea for the donation:

” When we were looking at which charity to raise funds for we were looking at a couple of criteria. We were hoping to donate to a charity that is heavily involved in the field of mental wellness, is local to the community London-Middlesex and would have an impact for students as a whole.”

Chris Lethbridge. FSU’s VP Athletics & Residence Life, organized the semi-formal dance. After researching various local mental health organizations, Lethbridge selected LMSPC to receive the proceeds from the annual FSU event.

On April 29, 2014, LMSPC Co-Chair Catherine McInnes facilitated a public training of safeTALK, organized by LMSPC. safeTALK is a three hour course developed by Livingworks  Education Inc. that prepares anyone over the age of 15 to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and to connect them to a suicide intervention caregiver. Several Fanshawe graduating students in the Social Service Worker program attended safeTALK and discussed their interest in attending the comprehensive ASIST Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. The students expressed that finding a training and the cost of training were challenging. In response, the LMSPC Executive decided to use the FSU donation to subsidize the cost of ASIST for these graduating students.

LMSPC Co-Chair Catherine McInnes notes, “the community impact of LMSPC has grown significantly in the last two years. An Ontario Trillium Foundation grant allowed us to hire a part-time project coordinator and to build a comprehensive website. It is clear that the London community is becoming more aware of the Council’s work.”

LMSPC has offered safeTALK in the community since 2012 and to date has trained over 1000 community members including Fanshawe Residence Advisors, Western Student groups, Ontario Works staff, and teacher candidates at the Faculty of Education at Western University. One of the Council’s goals is to have safeTALK become part of workplace health and safety training and that safeTALK will be as widely accepted and expected as First Aid/CPR.

If you would like to bring safeTALK to your school, work or volunteer community, please contact Lynda at

Suicide Prevention Council Offers New Initiative

The London Free Press, December 4, 2012, Ian Gillespie.

This is a new initiative for the city of London and Middlesex county,” Cowie says. “Until this year, there have not been any qualified safeTALK trainers in London.”

The council offers about 15 of these public seminars between now and June 2013, including presentations on Jan. 10, 18. 26 and Feb. 1. (Cost is $35 a person, although subsidies are available.)

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Increasing empowerment = Reducing Stigma

London Community News, July 31, 2013, Sean Meyer.

Lynda Cowie is a project co-ordinator with London-Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council, an organization that has existed since around 1990. Lynda played a key role in the council’s launch of its new website last May, which is dedicated to educating the public about suicide.

First and foremost, Lynda said, the goal of the new website was to offer support to those in crisis or individuals who are trying to support a friend or family member who is in need of their own assistance.

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Lifting the Silence, opening the discussion around suicide

London Community News, September 5, 2013, Sean Meyer. Lifting the Silence, opening the discussion around suicide

London has seen an average of 34 suicide deaths the last 10-plus years — ranging from 26 to 47 deaths per year — and yet the subject remains a whispered conversation, if it is discussed at all.

The London-Middlesex Suicide Prevention Council is trying to change that by bringing greater awareness to a situation that sees almost one million people per year die from suicide, amounting to one death every 40 seconds.

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Radio host struggled with inner demons

The London Free Press, September 9, 2013, Ian Gillespie

Very few people are prepared to talk about (suicide), because as it stands now, there are always going to be people who condemn when someone talks about experiencing mental illness,” he says. “But by talking about it, people can start to understand it.”

His words echo the message of the Lifting the Silence Memorial Walk slated for Tuesday evening in Victoria Park: The theme of that event is Stigma: A major barrier to suicide prevention.

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Tide turning on suicide stigma in London

Metro News. September 12, 2013, Scott Taylor.

It’s one of the last frontiers — the stigma many feel uncomfortable discussing and one that too often ends tragically.

To contradict a once-popular song, suicide isn’t painless. Not by a long shot.

Yet one of the easiest and most effective ways to save someone is talking to them, to ask them questions and really listen to them.

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