The mental health conversation continues

Suicide prevention workshops held as outreach improves for mental health issues on campus

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

TRU students Taryn Cassidy (left) and Yulia Zubok (right) visit with Bridget Jensen and the St. John's Ambulance dogs. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

TRU students Taryn Cassidy (left) and Yulia Zubok (right) visit with Bridget Jensen and the St. John’s Ambulance dogs. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

TRU Aboriginal counselor Andrea Brassard presented two suicide intervention workshops on campus on Oct. 8 and 9 for staff and students. The event was organized by TRU wellness co-ordinator Chelsea Corsi.

Brassard said she hoped the workshops would “reduce the stigma around suicide and help people get a better understanding of what it could look like, or present like when somebody is asking for help,” as well as how to stay calm and feel capable of responding to those in need.

During the workshop, Brassard talked about the high correlation between mental health disorders and suicide, and how grouping people into high risk and low risk groups may cause us to give undue attention to some, and not enough attention to others.

Brassard also stressed the importance of using what she suggests is the correct term, “death by suicide,” and not the common term “committing suicide,” because it can give the wrong connotations.

An overall theme of the week’s events appeared to be outreach and better support for those affected by mental health issues.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s website states that “suicide is the leading cause of death for people in Canada aged 15 to 25.” The commission also suggests improving access to mental health treatment and support as a way to help those considering suicide.

Corsi is working towards improving access to said treatment and support with initiatives like Therapy Thursdays, where the St. John’s Ambulance therapy dogs visit campus. The event returned to campus on Oct. 10.

Corsi also noted that the latest data from the National College Health Assessment survey, conducted last spring, indicates that mental health issues are very prevalent on campus. She is working to get more mental health information to students on campus and in the classroom.

According to Brassard, the two major theories behind suicide are the hope to get the attention and help needed, or a pain so intolerable that a person is desperate to make it stop.

There is usually a sign, conscious or unconscious, where people reach out for help, according to Brassard, and these signs are usually characterized by sudden differences or changes to a person.

Though it can be difficult, Brassard insisted on the importance of bringing forth the difficult question, “I’m wondering if you are feeling suicidal?”

Brassard outlined elements of a safety plan for those considering attempting suicide. The plan can be verbal or written and should include a plan to keep the person safe, a safety contact for them to reach out to, an agreement to avoid use of drugs or alcohol and a link to other resources and continual follow-up.

Some may already have a plan to attempt suicide, and in this case, Brassard said it is necessary to disable the method they plan to use, and to walk the individual in need directly to emergency support.

Shirley Sidney (right) and CMHA activity coordinator with Lauren White (left), tend at their booth in Old Main. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

Shirley Sidney (right) and CMHA activity coordinator with Lauren White (left), tend at their booth in Old Main. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

Statistics Canada reported 3,890 suicides in 2009 for people ages 10 and over, but Brassard pointed out that doesn’t include unreported attempts and suicidal thoughts.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) also visited campus on Oct. 10, setting up a booth in Old Main Student Street for their “Beyond the Blues” depression and anxiety education and screening day.

In previous years, the CMHA provided on-site mental health screening tests for students, but this year they opted for a more private option by providing students a website link where they can take the test themselves. To take the test yourself, visit and click the link under “Take a self-test.”


Mental health resources for students:

TRU Counselling Department
OM 1631

TRU Health Services
OM 1463

Interior Crisis Line Network

TRU Wellness Centre
OM 1482

Kamloops Mental Health

Canadian Mental Health Association

After-Hours Crisis Line