All Posts Tagged With: "suicide"
Suicide prevention stepped up from Nova Scotia to BC
VICTORIA – When Tad Milmine walks into a classroom, students don’t know anything about him.
They don’t know he’s an RCMP officer. They don’t know he’s gay. They don’t know he’s been bullied and abused.
But within minutes, students know he’s there for them, especially in their darkest, most vulnerable moments, Milmine said.
He speaks to them through the spirits of Ontario’s Jamie Hubley, Nova Scotia’s Rehtaeh Parsons and British Columbia’s Amanda Todd — all teen suicide victims mercilessly bullied by their peers before killing themselves. Todd died one year ago Thursday.
“I’m up there, just a guy named Tad,” said the Surrey, B.C., RCMP officer during an off-duty interview. “That’s how I get introduced. While I’m speaking they don’t even know I’m a police officer until about halfway through.”
Milmine said he started talking to students across Canada last October, at about the same time the country was emotionally shaken by Todd’s suicide.
The 15-year-old, Grade 10 student from Port Coquitlam, B.C., posted a video detailing her anguish over the sustained harassment she endured at school and on the Internet about images of her body posted on the Internet.
At one point in Todd’s video, which now has received over 28 million views, she holds up a handwritten note that says, “I have nobody. I need someone.”
Advice from a woman who couldn’t find help on campus
I dropped out of McGill University because of depression. It was the type that begins as a barely perceptible malaise but quickly penetrates your mind and renders you nearly unable to speak, think, or even walk. Perhaps the most common misunderstanding of depression is that it’s simply an overarching sadness permeating your positive thoughts. In its most serious form, the illness may actually leave you unable to feel anything—comfort or happiness, fear or rage. It wasn’t until I’d reached this level that I finally decided to take time off from my routine and accept help. If you find any aspect of this story relatable, I hope that you seek help immediately.
I vividly remember the first (and last) time I used McGill Mental Health Services. My parents had been asking me to get in touch with someone for months. I’d always responded to these requests by saying no, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was “fine” and “therapists are for people who need attention.” But after two years of growing increasingly despondent, I knew I had to do something. So I temporarily abandoned my mask of confidence and called.
Ghyslain Raza now a proud law school grad
Almost a billion viewers across the planet know him as the Star Wars Kid, but they’ve never heard him speak, until now.
Ghyslain Raza was a normal high-school student in small-town Quebec back in 2002, a shy 14-year-old who liked to make videos. In 2003, classmates posted one of those videos on the Internet without his knowledge–in it, Raza wields a makeshift light saber, clumsily imitating a Star Wars Jedi knight.
The video went viral, and the Trois-Rivières teen became one of the earliest and highest-profile victims of a massive cyberbullying attack, one that played out among classmates and strangers online.
“What I saw was mean. It was violent. People were telling me to commit suicide,” the now-25-year-old recalls.
PM Harper: Don’t call this bullying
The cousin of a young woman who committed suicide after an alleged assault and months of bullying issued an emotional appeal to people Thursday not to use violence to avenge her death.
Angella Parsons stood before a sombre crowd of about 300 people in a Halifax park to reflect on the short life of Rehtaeh Parsons and the lessons that should be learned from her loss.
“My family asks people not to respond with violence and aggression to this terrible tragedy,” she told the crowd through tears.
“We’re all angry. … Rehtaeh was angry, however, feeling angry and responding in anger and aggression are two very different things.”
The gathering came after Rehtaeh’s family said she hanged herself last week and was taken off life-support Sunday, following months of bullying linked to an alleged sexual assault by four boys at a house party in 2011.
Joshua Beharry works to improve mental health on campus
Moments before he jumped off Vancouver’s Oak Street Bridge, Joshua Beharry texted his brother. He was hoping the message would be delayed—his brother had notoriously bad cell reception—but he wanted his family to know what had happened. Then, after waiting for a break in traffic, he leaped over the railing and into the Fraser River. “It was terrifying,” says Beharry, now 25. But even after jumping, he didn’t regret it. “I was thinking ‘this is the right thing to do.’ There was no chance of me ever getting better.”
Just over three years later, Beharry is speaking out about his suicide attempt in hopes that people like him will get help without feeling stigmatized.
One woman reflects on her high school torment
When I read about Amanda Todd’s suicide, I was affected, not only because someone so young decided to take her life, but also because of how it reminded me of my own adolescence.
To the right is a photo of me at Todd’s age. By the time that picture was taken, I had been bullied practically every day for five years. It started with some older girls who thought my name, Ravanne, sounded funny. They would chase me, scream at me, and throw food at me. Although concerned classmates stood up for me, it never stopped.
As early as sixth grade, I was depressed and socially anxious. When I entered junior high school, I was afraid to talk to new people out of fear that they too would laugh at me. I did make some friends, but for every friend I made, at least two people would obsessively bully me.
Canadian students feel hopeless, depressed, even suicidal
This week’s issue of Maclean’s took an in-depth look at the mental health crisis on university campuses. Read the story, check out our tips for dealing with stress and join the conversation on Twitter: #brokengeneration
In late August, as the first leaves changed from green to red and gold, university ghost towns were coming back to life. Residences were dusted out. Classrooms were readied. Textbooks were purchased—and new outfits, new computers, new posters to decorate dorm room walls. Amid this bustle, construction workers at Cornell University began installing steel mesh nets under seven bridges around campus. They overlook the scenic gorges for which Ithaca, N.Y., is known; in early 2010, they were the sites of three Cornell student suicides of a total of six that year. Students cross the bridges daily on their way to class.
Cornell’s bridge nets are the latest and most visible sign that the best and brightest are struggling. In an editorial in the Cornell Daily Sun following the 2010 suicides, president David J. Skorton acknowledged these deaths are just “the tip of the iceberg, indicative of a much larger spectrum of mental health challenges faced by many on our campus and on campuses everywhere.”
Universities are “perfect incubators” for mental illness
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Shanda Deziel.
Jonathan P. describes his second year at the University of British Columbia as “very, very rough.” He had five intensive reading and writing courses in international relations, plus volunteering commitments. But as an overachiever, he felt “on top of his game.” When he fell behind at week five, the Quebec City native decided he needed to work harder. “The obvious solution, to me,” says Jonathan, 21 at the time, “was to spend less time with friends, less time doing fun stuff, and study, study, study.” By week 10, as assignments piled up, he was sleeping three hours a night. “I woke up one morning,” he says, “and I just didn’t have any taste for my studies and every day looked like it would pretty much never end.” He would call home crying. When he told his stepmom he wasn’t eating, she urged him to go to a doctor, who prescribed sleeping pills that got him through the semester. “When I was home for Christmas,” he says, “just the thought of going back to UBC, I was like, ‘Hell, no. This is not happening.’ ”
Authors blame PG-13 rating for increasingly graphic portrayals
Authors of a report from the Annenberg Public Policy Center have shown a correlation between the dramatic rise in the portrayal of graphic suicides on film and the increase in the youth suicide rate.
Their study looked at 855 films produced between 1950 to 2006 and found that the number of explicit representations of suicide had tripled over the period. That increase paralleled the tripling of suicide by young people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S. from 1960 to 1990.
“While we cannot establish a causal connection here, it is interesting to note that the tripling of U.S. teen suicide since 1960 coincided with this increase in movie suicide portrayal,” Patrick E. Jamieson, the lead author, said in a press release.
Keeping quiet makes it harder for those who suffer to ask for help
In the face of the worst kind of tragedy, the Richardsons did something extraordinary. Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson and his wife have been openly discussing their 14-year-old daughter’s weekend suicide, doing their part to break down the stigma around a harsh reality that affects a great deal of young people.
“The Richardson’s family decision, at perhaps their darkest hour, was such a courageous decision. … Without question, they’ve inspired our community to have a dialogue about this issue that people didn’t want to talk about,” Tim Kluke, president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, told the Globe and Mail on Wednesday.
Suicide is a leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, second only to transport accidents. According to recent data from Statistics Canada, 475 young people killed themselves in 2007. That means that every single day, at least one person’s son or daughter, brother, sister or friend takes their own life.
And still, barely any of us will breathe a word about it, making it even harder for those contemplating the end of their life to share their pain and ask for help.
A police officer once told me that, as a general rule, “the media doesn’t cover suicide.” This is a statement I come back to every time I hear a young person has taken their own life. And I think about the many others whose names won’t appear in the paper because people are too afraid the mere mention of the word suicide will set someone else off, as if someone who is in the depths of despair hasn’t considered this option before reading about it in a newspaper.
I later recounted this conversation with the police officer to a journalism ethics professor. I wondered if there was some unwritten rule that said journalists shouldn’t mention such things. But he said that, as journalists, we have an obligation to report the truth, and that by not keeping record of how and why young people are dying, we are hiding a part of society that is very much in need of exposure.
The willful ignorance of mental health issues in this country is heartbreaking. I can’t help but think that the tragedy of nearly 500 young suicides every year is amplified by the fact that, in their last moments, these young adults lived in a world where they felt abandoned, a world that wouldn’t let them discuss their pain.
In the wake of their daughter’s tragedy, the Richardson’s gave those closest to her, as well as young people across the country, the opportunity to talk about their pain. And it’s a conversation very much worth having.
What are universities doing to address growing mental health issues among students?
On a Saturday morning at the beginning of this school year, a second-year student jumped from the window of his residence room at the University of Ottawa, an apparent suicide. As the details of the tragedy became clear, friends expressed how shocked they were by the death. In an excellent article written by Kelly Egan for the Ottawa Citizen, he was described as “a happy, motivated young man who travelled broadly, spoke several languages, had a leadership role at the residence and plans of entering law school.” How could this have happened to such a bright, promising young person?
The reality is that depression is incredibly common among students, especially those early in their university careers. Even the most ambitious and energetic students can be affected by depression and other mental health issues, and this often comes as a surprise to their friends and family of students.
Lev Bukhman knows all about what ails students. He’s worked with them for some 20 years, and is currently executive director of Student Care Networks, a leading Canadian health insurer that provides health and dental packages to over 450,000 students. Bukhman’s position gives him an insider’s view of what type of health problems students suffer with and medicate, and what he has noticed is more and more students struggling with their mental health.
“Mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges facing students today,” Bukhman says. In fact, anti-depressants are one of the most common medications taken by students. At most universities covered by Student Care Networks, anti-depressants are the number one drug, ahead of oral contraceptives and acne medication. Typically anti-depressants account for a third of drugs covered by student health plans. At one university—which Bukhman selected randomly from his files—35 per cent of all drug claims were for anti-depressants.
Although most universities don’t collect mental data about students, every counselor I spoke to said they’ve seen an increasing number of students seeking treatment for mental health problems. Statistics from the few schools that do collect mental health data are enlightening. At the University of British Columbia, 11 per cent of female and 13 per cent of male students reported in 2008 that they seriously considered suicide at least once in the previous year, according to Dr. Patricia Mirwaldt, director of student health services.