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Sylvan Lake offering Community Helpers training to aide in suicide prevention

Chelsey Lambert says talking about mental health and suicide is the best way to help bring awareness

Chelsey Lambert is offering suicide prevention training to local residents through the Town’s Community Helpers Program, for which she is the coordinator.

Lambert presented to Town Council about the program at a recent meeting of council.

The Community Helpers Program is a “peer-to-peer helping program” which focuses on supporting youth and young adults. This program promotes mental health, suicide awareness and stigma reduction.

Lambert says suicide is 100 per cent preventable, and to do so the community needs to be able to talk about it openly.

“Mental health checks need to be part of our daily language… It should be, ‘How was your day? How are you feeling mentally?’” Lambert says.

A study by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2016 shows that suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. The study indicates motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death in the same age group.

Lambert says it is believed the current leading cause of death is actually suicide.

“We talk about motor driving, everyone knows about the risks of distracted driving, but there is still a stigma when it comes to talking about mental health and suicide,” Lambert said.

Alberta has the third highest rate of suicide in the country, and in 2018 there were over 7,000 Albertans admitted to the hospital for attempted suicide, half of those hospital visits were by youth.

In talking about mental health and suicide, Lambert says it will help to reduce the startling statistics. She also says that talking is a two-way street, and that listening is the other half of the puzzle.

The majority of those who have died by, or attempted, suicide have told someone before it happened.

“Suicide is 100 per cent preventable. We need to be talking about it and not making it taboo.”

“Unfortunately we don’t know the affects COVID-19 will have the suicide rate until much later… We do know that the mental health consequences [like suicidal behaviour] will be felt long after. It is believed it will actually peak later than the actual pandemic.”

A recent survey done in Canada showed six per cent of respondents have had suicidal thoughts during the pandemic and nine per cent of parents with young children said they had had suicidal thoughts.

Lambert says those most likely to have these thoughts and behaviours are those with a pre-existing mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety.

However, she says the COVID-19 pandemic may bring out suicidal thoughts and behaviours in those without these disorders because of the uncertainty, social isolation and economic problems the pandemic has brought on.

“Suicide is a significant issue that affects everyone… and can be prevented.”

Lambert has been leading training to community members and Town of Sylvan Lake staff in how to talk about mental health and suicide and work with people who may be suffering.

Lambert offers two training options, one is a full day course to become a certified Community Helper, and the other is a two hour presentation on suicide prevention.

Currently, Lambert is working with youth in the high school who are Ment-to-Matter Mentors, as well as Grade 8 students at Ecole Fox Run School and those in the Leaders in Training program.

She says she has completed three training sessions with community members, both in person and virtually.

The training she provides is available for youth groups, schools, community members, businesses, volunteers, support organizations and more.

“The best thing we can do is to talk about it,” she said.

To learn more about Community Helpers, or to request training, contact Lambert at clambert@sylvanlake.ca

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