On August 31, 2019 my sister Kelly and I lost our bright, kind, and beautiful mother Tracey to suicide. In the weeks preceding her death, a major depression Mum had dealt with and overcome several times before in her life came back with a suddenness and intensity that staggered us. It was terrifying to see this episode’s impact and how debilitating it was; the helplessness you feel when a loved one is being tormented by their own mind is it’s own kind of torture. Still, even through her long and grinding bouts of depression in years past, suicide somehow never felt like a possibility. The very notion was abstract, dark, and seemed impossible- so it was the most shocking and devastating thing we could have imagined that it happened. It’s now just over a year later and there are many days we still can’t believe she’s gone.
Our Mom was our best friend, our biggest cheerleader and just exuded light and kindness. She always wanted to help, whether it was my sister and I, her friends and family or complete strangers- if there was a need for volunteers, she’d be one of the first to sign up. She had so much love for us, for her dogs, for travelling, for golfing, for gardening, for relaxing with drinks on the patio and talking for hours. She was so compassionate and could truly see the good in everyone. When we were growing up, she worked as a registered nurse and often brought home little gifts from patients and their families that she had cared for. She left such an impression on the people she met and this was especially obvious at her memorial, where we were just blown away by the amount of people who attended that had worked with her years, even decades ago. The stories people were generous enough to share with us about our mom were so beautiful- they were such a gift and helped to propel us through that surreal day.
Last year at this time, as we moved through the chaos and fog immediately following Mum’s death, I began to see bright yellow billboards all over town stating that ‘11 Edmontonians attempt or die by suicide per day’. As it turns out, each year, over 50 countries recognize September 10th as World Suicide Prevention Day. So soon after losing my mother this way, the subject of suicide was the only thing on my mind apart from the endless ‘Why?’s. This campaign’s timing was bananas.
I quickly learned the ads were promoting 11 of Us, a resource portal developed as part of Living Hope: A Community Plan to Prevent Suicide in Edmonton. The Living Hope initiative was developed by a committee of individuals and organizations dedicated to preventing suicides in Edmonton. The plan’s objectives include raising awareness and making education on mental health and suicide prevention available to Edmontonians, in most cases free of charge.
Over the past year, I’ve taken advantage of this initiative and attended excellent courses provided by Living Hope stakeholders including Mental Health First Aid (Basic Course), Safe Talk, Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), and Trauma Informed Care. Through these courses I have been lucky enough to meet and share my story with so many kind, compassionate and interesting people, whether they were the ones delivering the course or learning alongside me.
Of course COVID-19 has changed everything. Most of these courses are now offered online, including one I have yet to take called LivingWorks Start which teaches trainees to recognize when someone is thinking about suicide and to connect them with help and support. While many of us are dealing with screen-fatigue, please don’t let the idea of one more online session deter you. Most courses don’t require more than an hour, but the information you’ll learn really could help keep someone with us.
This past year has been the hardest of my life, yet I’ve been encouraged and inspired by the work and efforts of so many as I try to gain peace and a better understanding of my family’s experience. It goes without saying that suicide is a difficult topic- I’ve come to learn that nothing sucks the air out a room quite like the mention of it. It’s much easier to look away, but for World Suicide Prevention Day this year, if your own mental health allows for it, take a moment to read about the experiences of suicide attempt survivors, caregivers, suicide loss survivors, and those at risk of suicide.
We live in a new world now and we’re going to need each other more than ever. Like another one of those big yellow 11 of Us billboards I saw recently said, ‘There’s rarely been a more important time to check in with one another.’
WHERE TO GET HELP
Call 911 if someone is in immediate danger of becoming injured or dying.
In Edmonton: Call The Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Edmonton Distress Line 24/7 at (780)-482-4357 (HELP)
In Red Deer & across Alberta: Call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-(877)-303-2642
In Calgary: Call the Distress Centre Calgary’s Crisis Line 24/7 at (403)-266-4357 (HELP)
Post-secondary schools must report on free speech efforts on campus, minister says
Edmonton – The Alberta government says it will require post-secondary institutions to report annually on their efforts to protect free speech on campus.
A news release from the Department of Advanced Education does not detail exactly what must be included in these reports, or say what the consequences would be if the requirements are not met.
Minister Demetrios Nicolaides signalled changes were coming earlier this week after the University of Lethbridge reversed its decision to host a speech by a former Mount Royal University professor whose comments on residential schools have drawn fierce criticism.
Frances Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 after she spoke of the educational benefits of residential schools while questioning whether abuses at the institutions amounted to cultural genocide.
Widdowson’s campus speech this week was to centre on concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.
The Alberta government says the latest move builds on its earlier work in 2019, when it required all 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta to either endorse the Chicago Principles on free expression, or develop a policy consistent with them.
“It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to ensure our institutions are adequately protecting free speech,” Nicolaides said in a written statement Friday.
Alberta’s post-secondary institutions should be bastions of free speech and academic freedom that promote critical thinking. I will continue to explore greater steps we can take to strengthen free speech on campus.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.
Overdose prevention services in Red Deer will soon transition to a mobile site operated by Alberta Health Services
Next steps for Red Deer overdose prevention site
Alberta’s government continues to make overdose prevention services available across the province while also ensuring the safety of communities and neighbourhoods is a top priority. Alberta’s government will be working in partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Turning Point over the next three to six months to implement the transition to a mobile overdose prevention site operated by AHS.
This transition is necessary to respond to the changing needs in Red Deer while improving the standard of service delivery at the overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue working closely with the City of Red Deer and the broader community to put the safety and security of the community first while continuing to provide overdose prevention services in a professional manner.
“Overdose prevention services are healthcare services that must meet quality standards to ensure the safety of the community and a high-standard of care. Alberta Health Services is an accountable and proven operator that has experience managing these services across Alberta. My ministry will be working closely with AHS and the current operator over the next few months to smoothly transition these operations, ensuring there are no gaps in service for clients of the services.”
“We appreciate the leadership of the government of Alberta in this area. We thank Turning Point for their service and the lives saved over the past several years. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Red Deerians is a top priority, and we are confident this new AHS-operated mobile site will continue to meet the needs of our residents.”
Once the transition occurs, the new AHS-operated mobile unit will initially operate at the same location as the current overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue to work with the City of Red Deer, and may change the location of the service within Red Deer based on input from the municipality and the changing needs of the community.
As with all overdose prevention services in the province, this mobile unit will be regulated and be required to meet the quality standards outlined in the Recovery-oriented Supervised Consumption Standards in order to be licensed. Overdose prevention site service providers must also demonstrate clearly defined referral pathways to detox, treatment and recovery services, as well as primary health-care services.
Alberta’s government is continuing to build a recovery-oriented system of care, where everyone struggling with addiction and mental health challenges is supported in their pursuit of recovery. This includes adding more than 9,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces, eliminating fees for residential addiction treatment, launching the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app and expanding opioid agonist treatment.
- To be licensed, supervised consumption site service providers need to follow requirements related to:
- the safety and security of clients, employees and the surrounding community
- standardized data collection
- staff qualifications and training
- clinical practice standards
- good neighbour agreements
- physical site requirements, such as having access to washrooms for clients
- Health Canada is responsible for granting exemptions under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow supervised consumption sites to operate. Overdose prevention sites require a similar exemption under Section 56(1) of the act or a letter of authorization from the Government of Alberta under the authority of the province’s class exemption.
- Alberta spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
- Any Albertan struggling with addiction can contact 211 Alberta to connect with local services and virtual supports. 211 is free, confidential and available 24-7.
- The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program provides same-day access to addiction medicine physicians and life-saving medications to Albertans across the province. Albertans can call 1-844-383-7688 seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
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