About ten years ago I saw a young couple throw themselves in front of a subway train at the McGill metro station in downtown Montreal. It was all over in a flash.
All I saw was two people on the opposite platform suddenly rush forward, and then the body of one of them lying like a rag doll under the middle of the train when it came to a full stop.
But the incident haunted me for years. I couldn’t help thinking if only I had been on the other platform, I might have been able to do something to save them.
So I can’t help but note that Saturday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Because suicide is a huge problem in Canada and not enough is being done about it.
Every month about 300 Canadians take their own lives, and many more attempt it. The young and the old are particularly vulnerable, and so are the mentally ill.
In native communities, where suicide rates are many times the rate of non-native Canadians, they call Autumn the suicide season. And what’s happening in one native community is an absolute horror show.
Pikangikum, a fly-in community of 2,400 people in northwestern Ontario, is thought to have the highest suicide rate in the world . . . Of the 16 suicides examined by the coroner, four of the children were 12.
The top recommendation is for Ottawa to build a school in Pikangikum to replace the one that burned down four years ago. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has committed to rebuild it, but that has not yet happened.
Our failure to stop this slaughter of our suffering native youth is a gaping wound in the side of this country. Our apparent inability to talk openly about our suicide problem only makes things worse.
The good news, and the point of Suicide Prevention Day, is that we CAN do something about it. We can force governments to do more, we can help more Canadians choose life, and we can help reduce the shattering pain of those who loved them and lost them so suddenly.
We just have to educate ourselves about the problem. We have to be able to recognize the symptoms and the warnings in those we know and love, know what to say and how to help them.
But perhaps the simplest and most effective thing we can do as ordinary people is just say “TALK TO ME.”
Which just happens to be this year’s slogan of The Trevor Project, an organization that helps LGBT kids, who attempt suicide at a rate four times higher than their straight peers.
Here’s Kevin McHale from “Glee” speaking to them . . .
And here’s a flash mob in Los Angeles sending out a message that I’m dedicating to everybody, young and old, gay or straight, who are feeling sad and hopeless tonight . . .
Yup. Talk to me. Three simple words that can save a life.
Knowledge is strength.
And love can work wonders . . .