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)
Running Reins Ranch in Red Deer County picks up $250,000 grant from province
Running Reins Ranch partners with members of the local Indigenous community to set-up teepee accommodations and host regular cultural programming for guests.
Tourism investment fuels growth in rural Alberta
Alberta’s government continues to support regional tourism opportunities across the province, generating jobs and new tourism destinations for locals and visitors alike.
Ahead of World Tourism Day 2023, Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow visited Running Reins Ranch to see first-hand how tourism investment grants are making a difference in the lives of Albertans.
“Alberta’s government is proud to invest in growing visitor destinations like Running Reins Ranch that celebrate the richness and diversity of Alberta’s rural destinations and provide a sustainable tourism experience for visitors to enjoy.”
As part of the Tourism Investment Program, Running Reins Ranch received a $250,000 grant from Travel Alberta.
“Our investment will support the building of additional unique accommodations at the ranch that will triple their capacity, emphasize their year-round offerings and create five new full-time jobs. This investment in Running Reins Ranch is a perfect example of how Travel Alberta is driving tourism growth in rural communities across the province.”
Running Reins is located east of Innisfail, offering cabin and teepee accommodations and a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors looking to combine the beauty of the Prairies with farm experiences for a one-of-a-kind getaway.
Right to Left: Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow, Owners of Running Reins Ranch Terry and Janice Scott, and team member Grace Finlan.
“This funding is a game-changer for us and our business. We are excited to bring our vision to life and provide visitors with unforgettable experiences while supporting the economic growth of the surrounding community.”
Tourism is Alberta’s No. 1 service export sector. In 2019, Alberta welcomed 34.6 million visitors, generating $10.1 billion in expenditures and supporting more than 80,000 full-time jobs. The Tourism Investment Program is Travel Alberta’s commitment to investing $15 million annually with communities and operators to develop the province’s tourism sector. Developing Alberta’s rural and agri-tourism sector is an essential component of the government’s efforts to grow Alberta’s tourism economy to more than $20 billion by 2035.
- In 2022-23, Travel Alberta funded 166 projects across 73 communities – about 75 per cent of the projects and 70 per cent of the funding were in smaller urban and rural areas of the province.
- In December 2022, Alberta’s government released its Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan, with supporting initiatives that demonstrate the government’s commitment to building healthy and prosperous communities across rural Alberta and Indigenous communities.
Company at centre of E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares faces licensing charges
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks to the media about an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Colette Derworiz in Calgary
The company that runs a commercial kitchen at the centre of an E. coli outbreak that has infected hundreds at numerous Calgary daycares has been charged with operating without a business licence.
The City of Calgary announced Wednesday that Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors face a total of 12 charges under municipal business bylaws and face a total fine of up to $120,000.
The company declined to comment on the charges in an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Mark Joffe said the number of cases has plateaued at 351, and tests and interviews indicate the cause of the outbreak was meat loaf and vegan loaf.
He said there are also 37 confirmed secondary cases and four children remain in hospital.
Fueling Minds provided meals to six of its own daycares that were affected by the outbreak, which was declared Sept. 4, and also to five separate daycares.
The city alleges Fueling Minds did not have the proper licence to serve those other five.
Joffe said the investigation into the cause of the outbreak included interviews with hundreds of parents and daycare staffers and the testing of 44 food samples.
“We believe that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals that were served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to these infections,” said Joffe.
“Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before this outbreak was identified.
“While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how.”
The company’s statement said the “exact source of the infections has not yet been identified” and it continues to work with Alberta Health Services on its ongoing investigation.
Joffe said the province is to hire a third party to verify its work and findings.
Premier Danielle Smith said former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson would lead a panel to investigate what went wrong and make recommendations on how to make commercially prepared food safer in daycares.
Smith said the panel does not have a set timeline, but she expects to hear from him monthly and would implement interim recommendations if necessary rather than wait for the final report.
“Mr. Hanson will be joined by Alberta parents, childcare operators, food service operators, and food safety and public health experts,” said Smith.
“The panel will be examining all aspects of this tragic situation, large and small, as well as taking a full broader look at the legislation and regulations that govern food safety in our province.”
Smith said she met with parents of affected children, and a policy change they suggested was posting kitchen health inspection reports in a daycare rather than just online.
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Searle Turton, minister for children and family services, are already reviewing food handling in commercial daycare kitchens.
The kitchen remains closed and in recent months has been flagged for numerous health violations, including food transportation concerns.
Diana Batten, the Opposition NDP critic for childcare and child and family services, said Wednesday’s developments were a good start to getting answers.
“This will really help some of the families I’m speaking with,” she told reporters.
“However, it brings up or illustrates there’s a lot of problems inside the system. We heard Premier Smith talk about how we should trust now that the system is safe. Why? We continue to identify more concerns.”
Batten said a panel isn’t going to help solve those problems.
“It’s just spending more money and, honestly, putting a Band-Aid on what is honestly a huge public health crisis.”
The province has promised parents affected by the closures in the original 11 daycares a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to cover off financial hardship. Those facilities were closed Sept. 4 but have since reopened.
Eight more daycares faced closures or partial closures in the days that followed as secondary cases were identified.
Smith said last week that the compensation program would only be available to parents of the 11 daycares at the root of the outbreak.
Turton, however, confirmed parents affected by the later closures would also be eligible for the one-time payments, and that was the plan all along.
“The program hasn’t expanded,” said Turton.
“It’s important to note that just more daycares since the original announcement have actually become eligible for those payments.”
— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 27, 2023.
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