There is a wide-spectrum of reasons people choose to build a career in suicide prevention. Often, the roots are deeply personal. For some, the aspiration strikes later in life. For others – and for CASP Executive Director Tim Wall – the career path was carved very early on.
Where It All Began
“This line of work has always been very much a part of me, from when I was very young,” Tim explains. “I knew that what I wanted to do was to help people who were in despair, people who were struggling in life.” Tim was bullied as a child. It was a very painful experience, but it was something he lived through and it ended up having a profound effect on the rest of his life. Knowing there were other people like him, who were in pain and suffering in some way, Tim decided to make it his mission to find a way to help. The value for helping others was instilled in Tim at a young age. He grew up in a loving and supportive family, and he was taught the importance of giving back to other people. Early in his career, Tim dedicated his time to helping to keep people’s faith, and helping them to flourish. From there, his work continued to evolve. Tim began working at Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg as a clinician, where his primary focus was working with men who had a history of childhood trauma. “Over time, wonderful opportunities presented themselves where I felt I could have an impact in improving the lives of other people; not just individually, but also entire populations and communities,” he says.
Becoming the Executive Director of CASP
Tim’s work as the ED for CASP has been made possible through the generous support of Klinic, where he now holds the role of Director of Counselling Services. Suicide prevention and suicide postvention have been a significant part of Tim’s work for the last 25 years. For many of these years, Tim has been working to move suicide prevention forward in Manitoba, including starting a provincial suicide prevention community and a provincial leadership community. When the possibility of working with CASP and becoming more involved in suicide prevention at a national level presented itself, Tim jumped at the opportunity. Tim’s work with CASP is centered around helping families, communities, service providers and service organizations. He works with these individuals and groups to enhance their capacity to better support people who might be at risk of suicide, people who might be bereaved by suicide, and also people whose lives have been affected by psychological trauma. “It’s really about how we give people the tools and the resources they need to support others in their community,” he says. “Through capacity building, and building networks partnerships, we can learn together. Sharing information and resources, and working with others to develop additional resources, have always been hugely important to me. And I think that’s an important role for CASP.”
Tim’s Inspiration and Vision for Change
Tim says he finds his inspiration from the people he works with. “I think having relationships and connections with other people is so important and so rewarding.” Being an extrovert, Tim feeds off of these types of interactions. “I like the creative process. I like thinking out loud and hearing other people’s reactions, and working collaboratively,” he says. “I find that incredibly motivating and inspiring – just being able to work with other people, to see what they’re thinking and to take their thoughts and feelings and help develop them further.” He believes positive change begins with encouraging people to really take a genuine interest and curiousity in other people. Not just family and friends, but people at work or at school. It’s important for us to demonstrate a concern for other people’s wellbeing, he says. “This means finding ways to express our compassion and living a life that is based on the principles of kindness. I think that’s really important.” He reinforces the importance of asking people to not only learn everything they can about suicide prevention, but also to take risks. “We have to have those difficult conversations that are so necessary to supporting people and preventing suicide.” Suicide is everyone’s responsibility, and we all have a role in minimizing the harmful consequences of suicidal behaviour. In order to understand when someone might be struggling, we have to be willing to engage in meaningful conversations, Tim says. We have to be willing to ask the sometimes difficult and awkward questions. This is how people can get involved and truly make a difference.