PRESS RELEASE OCTOBER 15, 2012
FROM: THE CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION
SUICIDE OF B.C. YOUTH SPARKS NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON THE MEDIA AND SUICIDE.
This week the Canadian Association For Suicide Prevention is holding its annual conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In the aftermath of the tragic death of 15 year old Amanda Todd, conference delegates have been engaged in an intense and important conversation on how the media has reported on this traumatic event, a death that has captivated the attention and hearts of Canadians.
Mainstream and social media play a pivotal role in raising public awareness on this important public health issue. The media is one pillar in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. The media can educate, help and inspire hope in those who are vulnerable and may be at risk of suicide. The media also has the potential to harm when reporting inadvertently increases the risk for those who are struggling to find hope. Reporting on this highly publicized event contains examples of both. There has been sensitive and thoughtful reporting that has helped to promote informed commentary and break the secrecy, shame and stigma that so often shrouds suicide. There has also been reporting that has sensationalized and exploited this tragedy and has potentially placed others at greater risk.
There is evidence of increased risks related to reporting on suicide when that reporting does not take a balanced and informed approach. “Suicide should be addressed in the media. We should encourage the media in its responsibility to inform and educate the public”, says Dammy Damstron-Albach, president of CASP. “However we can do harm when reporting does not take advantage of all we now know about what is helpful and harmful when talking publically about suicide related deaths” Damstrom-Albach went on to say. For example, it is important to provide links to 24 hour supports when reporting touches vulnerable others. It is important to avoid graphic details that sensationalize or romanticize suicide, particularly with details regarding means.
Tim wall, Executive Director of CASP stated that “when the media and those involved in suicide prevention work together we can better serve the public good and talk about suicide in a way that increases safety rather than increasing risk”.
“While CASP was deeply concerned about recent, these tragedies challenge us all to reflect on how we can be part of the solution and learn together. We should take time to educate ourselves, the public and the media on safer ways to report the news” said Renee Oiumet, CASP’s president elect. This national dialogue must include a conversation on the many challenges that social networking presents to suicide prevention. We are being challenged like never before to keep up with how to also inform and use social networking so that it helps save lives rather than destroy them, to inspire hope rather than humiliate and exploit peoples vulnerabilities”, said Ouimet.
CASP encourages all media and journalists to learn more about responsible and balanced reporting on suicides by visiting its website at www.suicideprevention.ca or www.ottawasuicidepreventioncoalition.ca
The power of words – the language of suicide By P. Bonny Ball
“Committed suicide”, “completed suicide” or “successful suicide” have historically been used to describe a death by suicide. The suicide prevention community is now realizing that this language is not accurate nor is it helpful.
“Committed suicide,” with its implications of criminality, is a carryover from the Middle Ages, when civil authorities, finding the deceased beyond their reach, punished the survivors by confiscating their property. Those who died by suicide were forbidden traditional funerals and burials, and suicide was considered both illegal and sinful by the laws and religions of the time.
Today, the word “commit” presents a particular problem since it is also used for criminal offences such as homicide and assault. Suicide is no longer a criminal act in Canada. The term “successful” used to describe a suicide death does not reflect the reality. Every suicide death is a tragedy, not a success.
Initiated by the Compassionate Friends, in 2002 the CASP Board recommended using death by suicide, died by suicide, suicide or suicide death. These terms are non-judgemental and consistent with how we describe other types of death – died from cancer, died in a car accident, and thus died by suicide.
Likewise, to describe a suicide attempt that does not result in death as a “failure,” “unsuccessful,” or “incomplete” is not helpful, nor is it accurate. Each of these terms imply that the person who attempted suicide is a failure, when, in fact, a suicide attempt that does not result in death gives the person the opportunity to find help and hope.
The terms “non-fatal suicide attempt” or just “suicide attempt” more accurately and appropriately reflects that event.
Changing the language used to describe suicide is not easy – old habits die hard. But as we in the suicide prevention community work to change our language in our own work, the new language becomes more familiar. Most others (even media) usually understand the rationale when we take the time to explain – though they do take reminding!
Change DOES come, if slowly.
Thank you for your support
P. Bonny Ball is past board member and Survivor Chair CASP;member of 2011 Vancouver CASP conference committee. This article is adapted from AMHB “What’s in a Word: The Language of Suicide” Alberta Mental Health Board
National On Line Survey of Distress/Crisis Lines
CASP, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, is currently undertaking a national survey of all Canadian Distress & Crisis lines. This initiative is an important step to the eventual creation of a National Distress Line Network. Distress & Crisis Lines in Canada are encouraged to complete this on line survey. The results of this survey will be presented at this year’s CASP conference in Niagara Falls. To participate in the survey, which takes approximately 15 minutes, please use this link: http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/lori-hager/survey-of-distress-centres-in-canada/
From: The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, Livingworks, Collateral Damage Project and Your Life Counts.
Suicides of Professional Athletes Highlights Need for National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th marks another tragic landmark, close to 4,000 more deaths by suicide in Canada and still no national strategy to address this major public health issue.
The recent death by suicide of a number of professional athletes is a painful reminder that suicide continues to be major public health problem in Canada that affects all walks of life. Success, financial security and popularity do not in and by themselves offer protection from the risk of suicide.
“These most recent tragedies and the quiet suffering of those affected speak loudly about the need for the Government of Canada to pay heed to the call from thousands of Canadians, the United Nations and the World Health Organization to establish a national suicide prevention strategy and national suicide prevention coordinating body as other industrialized countries have already done. “ said Tim Wall, Executive Director for the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). “There is currently nothing in Canada that unifies suicide prevention and no structure in place to promote the sharing of life saving information”, Wall added. According to Richard Ramsey of Livingworks “ National strategy and coordinating bodies in other countries have proven to play critical roles in providing much needed support and guidance in the prevention of suicide. Canada needs the same support for hundreds of national organizations such as the National Hockey League and other sport federations concerned about the welfare of their constituents”.
Dr. Nizar Ladha, President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association stated “Although we have excellent individual suicide prevention programs, Canada is in the top third of countries with the highest suicide rate. This can change if we tackle this complex problem with a nationally coordinated and multi-faceted approach.”
Russ Courtnall, a former NHL player, advisor to the Collateral Damages Project and someone who knows firsthand the tragedy of suicide believes that “suicide prevention and mental health promotion are important and pressing issues among professional athletes. Both professional and amateur sporting organizations, including the NHL, can play and important role in suicide prevention. It also requires leadership on a national level and from the national government.”
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. On that day communities across Canada will take time to remember those who have died by suicide, support and acknowledge those who grieve and promote suicide awareness and local suicide prevention initiatives. The theme for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day in Canada is “Building Suicide Safer Communities” which is a new national initiative being launched by Livingworks and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention along with other partners such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and Collateral Damages. For more information on this initiative visit www.suicidesafercommunities.com . Dammy Damstrom-Albach, President of CASP stated that “While communities, service organizations and provincial and territorial governments across Canada are doing their part for suicide prevention it is time for the Government of Canada to do theirs and share the burden of responsibility.” She went on to state that” Leading up to and after Sept. 10th we hope that Canadians will contact their Member of Parliament and ask them to demonstrate their concern and compassion by supporting the call for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy and National Suicide Prevention Coordinating Body.”
For more information contact:
Executive Director, CASP
Dammy Damstrom Albach
Past President, CASP
For immediate release November 16, 2011
Physician and Patient Organizations Laud
Parliamentary Report on Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Ottawa, Nov. 17, 2011 – The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention today commended the report of a Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate care that calls for the development of a National Palliative and End-of-Life Care Strategy for Canada.
“End-of-life care is an area of our health care system that requires urgent attention,” said CMA President Dr. John Haggie. “In fact, when it comes to patient- or family-centred palliative care, there is no system. We therefore commend this committee’s efforts and hope its recommendations serve as a catalyst for governments to act.”
The CMA has urged governments to work toward a common end-of-life care strategy that would ensure that all Canadians have equitable access to and adequate standards for end-of-life care. It was one of many organizations that provided input to the Committee.
“We are particularly pleased that it is helping to raise awareness of the issue of elder abuse and neglect of older women and men in Canada. At the present, a patchwork of health, social and justice programs across the country exists and progress is being made. But to help more effectively, awareness, better understanding of the underlying factors and appropriate resources must go hand in hand,” said Charmaine Spencer, co-chair of the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.
Ms. Dammy Damstrom-Albach, President of the board of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, said: “We commend the committee for recognizing the importance of suicide prevention in the context of palliative care and for the inclusion of a recommendation for the establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. This is a step in the right direction. Given a similar motion just passed almost unanimously in the House of Commons what we need now is for the federal government to take these ideas forward..”
Said Dr. Haggie: “This report demonstrates the kind of non-partisan collaboration and cooperation that are needed if we’re to ensure our most vulnerable patients can live out their final days in dignity and that their caregivers receive the meaningful supports to allow this to happen.
“If we fix palliative care, we can use the same paradigm to transform the rest of the health care system.”
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, CMA’s mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing over 74,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations.
The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of the abuse of older people in Canada. Founded in 1998, it has been federally incorporated since 2000.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) also a national non-profit organization was incorporated in 1985 by a group of professionals who saw the need to provide information and resources to communities to reduce the suicide rate and minimize the harmful consequences of suicidal behaviour.
For more information:
Manager, Media Relations
Canadian Medical Association
Tel: 800-663-7336 / 613-731-8610, ext. 1266
Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
Tel: 204-784 4073