Let’s go fly a kite: Suicide prevention event looks to the sky

George Mathewson

Kites of all shapes and colours will be flying over Canatara Park beach on Sept. 10 when local residents come together in a spirit of support.

The event marking Suicide Prevention Day will feature music and art at the bandshell and adjacent pavilion, said Sharon Berry Ross, chairperson of the Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee.

“It’s a way to bring people together in recognition of the day and hopefully get people talking,” she said.

“(Suicide) is here, it’s real, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s really causing a great deal of grief.”

The evening will end with a group kite flight on the sand. The kite was chosen as this year’s theme because it symbolizes those who have contemplated or committed suicide, and their connection to others and the wider community.

Often it comes down to social isolation, Berry Ross said.

Studies show being alone increases the risk of suicide, and having a strong bond to another person is a protective factor. Reaching out to someone who has become disconnected and offering support and friendship can be a life-saving act, she said.

“We do suicide prevention every day, just by reaching out to other people. When you connect, it can be the smallest thing (that helps).”

Evening events include hip hop artist Michael Cassidy, a community-wide art project by artist David Moore, and a kite-making area for children.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people. On average, 11 people took their own lives in Sarnia-Lambton between 2000 and 2009, according to the most recent stats from Lambton Public Health.

A few years ago suicide prevention day was marked by a release of lanterns over Sarnia Bay, one for each high school, in what was a “very tough” year, Berry Ross said.

Often overlooked, however, is the fact that men between 40 and 50 years of age have the highest overall rate of suicide.

Berry Ross said Sarnia has come a long way.

“Years ago, we would have a tragic death like a suicide and there would be a groundswell response, and then things would drift off.  In the last five or six years, for a lot of reasons, there has been a much more sustained effort.”

School boards have mental health nurses, St Clair Child and Youth has opened a walk-in clinic, Bluewater Health and Canadian Mental Health have developed better protocols, and the local LHIN is working on a regional suicide strategy, she said.

“There are still gaps, believe me, but there is a sustained effort now.”

The Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee is a network of agencies and individuals committed to suicide prevention and mental health promotion.

A new website at sarnialambtonsuicideprevention.com offers accurate data and where to turn for help.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Suicide Prevention Day

WHEN: Sept. 10, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

WHERE: Canatara Park bandshell

OTHER: For more, call Sharon at 519- 328-8360