Forum tackles youth suicide
A hundred people have signed up for a community forum on suicide prevention in Port Coquitlam next week and one of the organizers would like to see that number double with more parents participating.
Mike Pledge, who coordinates counseling services for School District 43, said most of those signed up to attend the Shedding Light...Sharing Hope forum at Terry Fox Theatre Nov. 14 are health care workers and practitioners and he would like to see some families take part so more people recognize the signs of suicide and how to prevent it.
"This is the time when we worry about whether we've prepared them (teenagers) for life and suicide is a topic we're all nervous about," Pledge said. While it's true parents might be worried that being so open about the topic will give kids the idea, in fact, Pledge said, the opposite is true.
"It would be a good thing to come along with your teenage son and daughter and have a conversation in the car on the way home. Conversations are really at the root of this."
The more more knowledge and awareness there is around the issue, Pledge said, the better prepared the community will be in dealing with it.
To that end, the Tri-Cities Community Task Force on Suicide Prevention, a group of agencies dealing with youth mental health, is putting on the forum and has also created a website of suicide information and resources that will soon be launched and advertised through posters, social media and QR (Quick Response Codes).
"It's not a school problem, it's a community issue," said Pledge.
While the suicide a month ago of Port Coquitlam teenager Amanda Todd has raised awareness about the issue of youth suicide, Pledge said there is no quick fix — suicide is a complex issue. When somebody is identified as at risk, community agencies and school counsellors come together to provide a network of support around that person, or try to make them aware that they have support.
In the Tri-Cities, the number of suicides varies according to BC Coroners Service statistics, but in Coquitlam the yearly average is about 10, about half that in Port Coquitlam and fewer in the relatively smaller (numbers under five are suppressed to avoid revealing personal information) city of Port Moody. The number of child and youth suicides isn't broken down by city, but on average 17 youth under 19 kill themselves in B.C. a year, but there are huge swings, (in 2009 there were 11 child and youth suicides, in 2010 there were 31) making the issue of chid and youth suicide perennially difficult to deal with.
Still, there is hope, Pledge said, with suicide prevention agencies working at all levels with youth and families.
Among them is The FORCE (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equality) Society for Kids' Mental Health, which is providing the web cast at the Shedding the Light forum with suicide expert and former Tri-Cities mental health school liaison James Musgrave.
Pledge said other experts will be on hand to answer questions, too, and people are welcome to register before hand or just show up.
The forum runs from 6-9 p.m. at Terry Fox Theatre, 1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam. Snacks and light refreshments will be provided. To register, email email@example.com
SUICIDE BY THE NUMBERS
Average number of suicides per year in Fraser region - 130
Average number of suicides per year in B.C. - 495
Average number of suicides of children and youth per year in B.C. 17
Source: BC Coroners Service, Suicide Deaths 2010-2010