Suicide warning signs never too small to ignore

Gary
Gary Kean
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CORNER BROOK  “Far too often, it’s the ones who are left behind who inspire us to work towards something better for our community, our families and our co-workers.”

Mary Fisher shares her story about the impact of youth suicide on her family, her journey of healing and her role as an advocated of suicide prevention and awareness.

When Pat Higgins said those words, thanking Mary Fisher for telling her gripping tale of dealing with her teenage son’s suicide, he concisely summed up the reason why she was the guest speaker for the Let’s Talk luncheon hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Rotary Club of Corner Brook on Wednesday.

The several dozen people in attendance were all captivated by Fisher’s presentation at the luncheon sponsored by Bell Aliant, the main proponent of the Let’s Talk campaign to raise awareness of mental illness.

As reported by The Western Star in prior stories with Fisher, her son Jason took his own life just before the rest of his family returned home from a vacation to Portugal in 2007. Looking back, Fisher said the few warning signs Jason may have given before they left for the trip were quite subtle.

She will forever regret not realizing the gravity of them.

Making matters worse, Jason left no note to explain why he committed suicide.

Fisher, who even contemplated taking her own life so she could be “reunited” with her son, now believes his wish would be for her and all of his family to remain strong. Discussing suicide with anyone who will listen is her way of coming to terms with what happened to her family.

“What we take from what Mary said to us today, what you take back to your own home and community and own family will prove the worth of what she has given us today,” said Higgins, the Rotary Club’s president. “Keep your eyes open and gauge those around you.”

In her message, Fisher said to never overlook what seems like an insignificant problem exhibited by a loved one or friend. She said mentioning the word “suicide” to someone is not likely going to make that person more willing to kill themselves and may even be what the troubled individual needs to proactively deal with their issues.

Signs aren’t always obvious

Bob Joseph attended the luncheon on behalf of the Corner Brook Fire Department. While he and his crews usually attend scenes involving fires or car accidents, sometimes the emergency involves a mentally unstable person.

He said it was eye-opening to see firsthand how the signs of a troubled mind aren’t always obvious.

“Sometimes, we end up being one of the first responders at a scene and these are some of the things we sometimes have to deal with,” he said.

From the perspective of being a parent, Joseph said it was heart-wrenching to listen to Fisher’s tragic story.

He called it “worrisome” that the warning signs can be so easily missed sometimes.

“Usually, we worry about things like broken legs or something that happened at school,” he said. “This is something we never think we have to worry about with our children.”

Rotarian Martin Steele was amazed at Fisher’s ability to remain composed and effectively tell her agonizing story in front of a group of strangers.

“It takes tremendous strength to get up and talk at this sort of thing,” said Steele. “It’s been six years (since Jason’s death), but that’s just a moment in time as far as a parent and their child is concerned.”

He too said it is time for society to stop being desensitized to suicide and to pay more attention to the cries for help, especially when they are not readily apparent.

“You hear these kinds of things day in and day out from people and you just dismiss them,” said Steele. “When you go through it, you understand what has happened. But that’s after the fact and that’s unfortunate.”

gkean@thewesternstar.com

Twitter: WS_GaryKean

Organizations: Canadian Mental Health Association, Rotary Club of Corner Brook on Wednesday.The, Bell Aliant Corner Brook Fire Department

Geographic location: Western Star, Portugal

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  • Susan
    May 09, 2013 - 13:42

    While my heart goes out to Mary and her family, I can't help but feel that this article missed an opportunity to provide people with information that could save a life. If someone you care about is talking or writing about suicide or is preoccupied with death, take them to get emergency help immediately. Other signs of concern: seeking out the means for attempting suicide, such as accumulating pills or getting a gun; expressing hopelessness, lack of self-worth, and nothing to look forward to; experiencing dramatic changes in behavior, not necessarily toward the bad; losing interest in day-to-day activities; neglecting personal appearance; having big changes in sleeping or eating habits; saying goodbye or giving away their belongings; withdrawing from others; or engaging in self-destructive behavior, as if they have a "death wish." If you have concerns, take action. Ask questions. Be supportive. Learn about depressive disorders and what you, as a family member, friend, or other concerned person, can do. Information about suicide prevention is widely available, you just need to take the time to find it and read it. (You may also want to attend the Families for Depression Awareness free webinar on Teen Depression on May 29. Learn more and register at www.familyaware.org.)