How to help prevent suicide

Suicide: What you need to know to help your children and teenagers

Sept. 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Tuesday is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day

By Tracey Maxfield

Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide.

This means that in the next hour, 90 people will have died by suicide, at the end of today, 2,160 will have died and at the end of this week, 15,120 children, teenagers, young adults, adults and older people with have died by suicide.

In fact, among children and teenagers five to 24 years old, suicide is now the second leading cause of death.

Today, in the U.S., 16 teenagers will end their lives by suicide, and 3,041 students in Grades 9-12 will attempt to end their lives by suicide.

Why is this happening? Why are our children and teenagers dying by suicide?

Sadly, there is no one single reason. Whilst genetic make up, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), bullying, substance addiction and mental illnesses/disorders play major roles, kids today are facing stressors and challenges the likes of which we never experienced when we were growing up.

The combination of all these life stressors can throw their perspective off balance triggering overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, of a loss of control and a pervading sense of doom.

The Center for Disease Control, released a statement in response to the suicide epidemic in the U.S. stating:

A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide including a family history of suicide or child abuse, a history of mental disorders (especially depression), or alcohol/substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, impulsive and aggressive tendencies, isolation, loss, physical illness, local epidemics of suicide and easy access to lethal methods (firearms).


Suicide is the act of ending one’s life. It is usually planned and intentional. Suicide is not a mental disorder/illness, but, more often, the unfortunate outcome of a mental disorder that is often not recognized or is not treated effectively.

There are three components to a suicide plan:

  • Ideation
  • Intent
  • Plan

It is important to note that suicidal thoughts and/or attempts are not a normal and expected response to every-day life stressors.

Most teenagers who attempt, or die by, suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person.

The presence of suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously, it is a sign that the child/teenager needs help from a trained mental health professional.

These communications are not always direct; therefore, it is very important to know some of the key warning signs of suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) uses the acronym “IS PATH WARM” to identify the warning signs that a person may be suicidal:

I – Ideation about suicide
S – Substance abuse, e.g. alcohol, drugs
P – Purposelessness in life
A – Anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
T – Trapped, feeling there is no way out
H – Hopelessness or helplessness
W – Withdrawn from family, friends and activities
A – Anger or rage
R – Recklessness e.g. engaging in unsafe, risky or harmful behaviours
M - Mood change

Suicide Facts

  • In children/teenagers with a substance use disorder the risk of suicide is 5 to 6 times higher
  • 90% of children/teenagers who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness/disorder
  • In 2017, suicides amongst teenage girls hit a 40-year high
  • Since 2000, suicide in teenagers age 15-19 years old has increased 28%
  • Suicide ideation and self harm is common in teenage girls with Conduct Disorder
  • Suicide risk is 10 times more likely in kids with Asperger’s
  • Death by suicide is seven times higher in kids with Autism (ASD)
  • Children and teenagers with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia are at a significantly higher risk for suicide.
  • After the debut of the TV series 13 Reasons Why, there was a 19% increase in internet searches on “how to commit suicide”
  • Suicide, especially amongst children can be contagious. Five per cent of suicides in kids are influenced by contagion from suicidal peers or cultural depictions of suicide

What is most important to remember, is that when you are trying to end your life by suicide, there is still a part of you that does not want to die. But at that moment, you just cannot continue to live with the never-ending pain and sorrow.

The sense of hopelessness and loneliness is so overwhelming that death by suicide seems to be the only way you can end the pain and heartache.

If you have suicidal thoughts:

  • Remove yourself from your location
  • Call a trusted friend or family member
  • Call a local crisis centre
  • Go to your nearest Emergency Room (ER) or call 911, or local emergency number

If you know someone who is expressing suicidal thoughts:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Call a local crisis centre and/or emergency police services
  • Take the person to your nearest ER department
  • If the person has already self-harmed, call 911 (or local emergency number) immediately

​​Post Care

  • Follow up with a physician or psychiatrist
  • Follow the healthcare plan e.g. therapy, medications
  • Consider counselling and/or participation in a support group
  • Contact the local Mental Health Association, or your own local mental health branch.

Tracey Maxfield is a nurse, speaker, author and mental health/stop bullying advocate and educator. In 2017, she wrote a column for Castanet called Dementia Aware and in 2018, published her first book Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression. You can check out her videos and blog at www.traceymaxfield.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] 


Vancouver Island adventure

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

On the first day of holidays, my true love sank in quick sand, and our dog got zapped at the Air B&B's dew-covered land.

On the second day of holidays, my true love, dog and I, were, thankfully, in-ci-dent free.

Day one started normal enough. We went to church, and the Air B&B proprietor, whom we will call Ralph, offered to watch our dog while we went to the service, which was great.

While we were away, all hell broke loose when he let the dog out in the fenced yard and forgot that the electric fence was still on.

The wire was juiced in one section to keep the raccoons out of the pond; otherwise they would go fishing in his stocked pool.  He remembered his error just as Tig'ger went over to the fence.

Horrified, he yelled stop, but too little too late, and she touched her nose to it and got a good jolt, then took off running.

She thought Ralph zapped her deliberately and for the rest of our stay with him, she would not go near the good-hearted, disabled fellow, even when he bribed her with treats.

Due to Ralph’s physical limitations, he couldn’t get to the power source to shut it off fast enough, and injured his foot while trying. The poor, dear senior felt terrible for traumatizing the dog.

He finally coaxed her into the house and she stayed put in the bedroom that we were renting and would not come out.

After that experience, she eyed him suspiciously and would growl softly when he came near. She didn't understand he was trying to prevent the shocking experience, and didn’t intentionally zap her.

We returned to a remorseful Ralph, and a sulking dog. We then took her off his hands and went to the beach in Parksville, where more trouble awaited.

Being land lubbers originally from Alberta, we were unaware of the water that lurked below the sand. I thought it was freaky to see water bubbles form around my feet as I walked, but we carried on. Len went ahead, and sank into the quick sand.

The sand suction cupped him real good, and he lost one shoe then another; with each step, he sank past his ankles. He’d lift one foot and sink it again.

It took every ounce of his strength to get out. The dog thought it was a game and she ran circles around him and wrapped her leash around his legs. He was lassoed, unable to move.

I was laughing my head off. Suddenly, I realized the situation was dire, and said some prayers aloud.

Len managed to unhook the leash from the dog’s collar and unwrap himself, and with grim determination retrieved his shoes from the muck, nearly plunging in, head first.

With each step, he would sink again and again and, finally, with a loud grunt and groan hurled forward, onto drier land.

It was hard getting all that sand out of his shoes, and we cautiously made it back onto the rocky shoreline.

Len was exhausted, so we climbed up onto a grassy, open field and were harassed first by a guard dog that I prayed would not jump the fence.

As we walked gingerly on the edge of the grass, we were then yelled at by a man who said to get off his neighbour’s property.  Len politely explained what happened, but the guy said it wasn’t his problem.

All blooming heart, I tell yaw.

We climbed back down onto the rocks and to the safety of the vehicle, breathed a sigh of relief and drove away.   

I could not help but wonder what day two would bring.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Glenrosa woman whose dog, a mini Australian shepherd, when not running circles or bouncing off electrified fences, saved her from a bear two years ago.

Just say no to new

By ​Tara Tschritter 

Ahhhh, home renovations. The very thought conjures images of chaos, dust, decisions and delays.

So why would anyone in their right mind ever embark on such a journey? Well, it turns out there are a number of very compelling reasons.

Many of us love the idea of reducing our impact on Mother Earth. Why buy new when we can refurbish and reuse?

Trends toward online marketplaces and brick-and-mortar re-stores are on the rise, for good reason. Most of us agree that our homes and our communities have more than enough things. If we can reuse what is existing, we respect our planet and our future.

This values-driven reasoning for renovating is often complemented, or even replaced, by more practical reasons for choosing renovation over a new build.

Reusing existing infrastructure is more convenient, accessible and often more affordable than building new.

Some homeowners leverage existing home equity to obtain loans to complete their renovation project. 

Using our existing asset frequently costs less than starting from scratch.

In addition, homeowners may be able to stay in their home while a renovation is being completed, eliminating the need to pay for temporary accommodation.

Upgrading to energy efficient insulation or windows etc. can reduce monthly utility bills.

If you are considering a home renovation there are some important things to consider.

What is your goal?  Do you hope:

  • to generate revenue
  • to increase the comfort, usability and style of your home
  • to increase energy efficiency
  • or are you sprucing up to sell?

The amount of time you plan on living in your home post renovation should be considered in relation to your goal.

Don’t ever overlook good design

We have all driven by houses and thought, egad, that new façade is no better than putting lipstick on a pig.

Ultimately, timeless and tasteful design ensures that the time, money and resources you put into renovating your home do not go to waste.

Nobody wants a home that looks like a compilation of a million little patchwork jobs rather than a well thought out, intentional design.

Another thing to consider is possible hidden costs

Do you have the budget to deal with getting old electrical up to code or asbestos removed?  Are there any possible structural issues?

Ensure you have a good contractor assess these issues prior to beginning your job.

This pre-emptive assessment is the best way to avoid getting in over your head.

When putting money into your home you are wise to consider if you will get a good return on your investment. The reality is that our homes are likely our biggest investment.

When treated as such, our home-improvement project choices become more practical and beneficial over the long term.

As a small space construction company, we first became interested in renovations with the realization that the concepts of living in smaller spaces and renovating existing spaces both accomplish many of the same goals.

We can consume less, reduce our monthly utility bills, generate income and feel better about our environmental legacy. 

“At its best, preservation engages the past, in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William Murtagh

Tara Tschritter is the owner of a Kelowna base contracting company. Little House Contracting specializes in building and renovating small homes. Find out more at www.littlehouseco.com

Don't sleep with your horse

By Wild Bill Martin-Ock
(As told to Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel}

The horse blasted through the tough canvas material like it was a paper bag, leaving a gaping hole in the shape of his outline — just like you'd see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

It should have been funny, but it really wasn't.

Seconds earlier, the gelding, Sparky, had awakened from a nice, warm sleep in the cozy tent. It sure beat the -30c blizzard conditions outside. He lazily got up from the ground, front legs first, bumping his head on the side of the tent.

That’s when things got really crazy.

The horse flung his head around like a giraffe, whacking the centre pole, and then the tent came crashing down around us. The terrified beast instinctively kicked out with his back hooves, and knocked over the wood stove.

By this time, we helpless men lay there staring in disbelief, trapped in our sleeping bags on our cots. During the ensuing chaos, some men shrieked, others cussed, while a few begged for divine intervention.

Those flailing hooves, bearing 1,000 pounds of fury, were projectiles, which we hoped desperately, to avoid. One hoof packs a deadly wallop, one ton of force per square inch of hoof.

The horse wasn't aiming to hurt anyone; as he was just stampeding around, scared spit-less.

I heard a shrill scream, like that of a little girl, and feared the worst, then realized that scream was mine. We all flopped around in our bags like seals on a crowded beach.

Miraculously, no one was trampled, kicked or injured, and that wood stove was cold by then, but the ashes from it covered everything.

I do believe The Man Upstairs was listening to our cries for help, no coincidence there. Nonetheless, my hunting buddies were unimpressed, and sure were mad at me.

"You dumb blankety blank, we told you not to bring your horse into the tent for the night," they yelled.

My ego was bruised.

I was sure Sparky would have been well behaved, as he followed me like a dog into the tent the previous night. Sparky was grateful to be in from the cold, while his equine companions whinnied and stomped their feet jealously outside; in the blowing snow and howling, icy wind.

It was late November of 1980 in the Alberta foothills. My horse then shook the snow from his back, nudged me with his muzzle, and lay down, folded up his legs, and slept like a baby.

All was well until all hell broke loose in the morning, when the baby awoke, and temporarily lost his mind.

I should have known that the strangest things will spook a horse, even the sound of his own flatulence.

No harm, no foul though. Hence I was left behind to fix the tent, with threats upon my life, I might add. Thereafter, I found a couple of tarps; duct tape and bailer twine to patch up the tattered mess.

The Red Green stars would have been proud of the job I did.

After accomplishing that task, I parked the trucks, nose to nose at the mended end of the tent, which would provide a buffer from the wind on that weakened spot.

Livestock panels provided a small corral for the horses, while a tarp covered the top of it to give them some protection from the elements.

When I was finally satisfied with my makeshift repairs to our rustic tent, a remorseful Sparky and I headed out alone to hunt.

I bagged a moose two miles away from our camp, and it dressed out at 250 pounds. I had it hanging back at our camp in the early afternoon when the guys came back.

They were sheepish and empty handed. Hence we were all thankful for the moose liver and beans we had for supper that night.

Later on however, we experienced a rather chilly night’s sleep, due to the draft from the cold air and snow particles blowing in through the cracks in the renovations.

The experience would have been a real hit for a Reality TV survival show, nowadays. However, nobody had a camcorder back then, nor did we even think to bring a Polaroid camera.

We were just glad to survive the ordeal unscathed, and got the last laugh at Old Man Winter's efforts to freeze our sorry hides.

Another life lesson learned, this time in Tenting 101. Don’t share your tent with a horse.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is self described as being a somewhat eccentric humorist writer.  Doreen got her writing style and inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck who is reputed to have said, "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humour and hurt."

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