Photo Reflective Response, Trigger Warning: Suicide

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Growing up, I had been familiar with the concept of suicide either through stories I had heard in the news or in superficial and casual conversation. While the issue made me feel sad, it had always felt like a distant problem, up until high school, when I began to experience some extremely dark times throughout my own mental health journey. However, I was lucky enough to have the most inspirational, funny, and empathetic teacher that I’ve ever had, that ran a rag-tag book club that I was lucky enough to be a part of (which is where this photo was taken). While we all moved on and grew up after high school, we managed to stay in touch, when suddenly in 2016, this wonderful, superhero-like teacher of mine committed suicide at the age of 47. Looking at this photo, I never would have guessed that this woman, my friend, was suffering.

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Suicide is one of the consistent leading causes of death amongst Albertans, taking approximately 500 lives a year in our province alone, 75% of which are men aged 30-65. Sadly, we see proportional increases in suicide and self-harm rates in our vulnerable populations, such as with youth and Indigenous populations. An article published recently in September 2018 by Robert Cribb called serious attention to the rising number of suicide attempts and completions amongst Canadian youth, shedding light on staggering but important facts. For instance, of 1,319 Canadian teens aged 13 to 18 who utilized Kids Help Phone, one in five were seriously contemplating ending their life, according to a survey completed in 2016.

According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention (2013), suicide and self-inflicted injuries are one the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.Until the suicide of my teacher, I really did think that suicide was mostly something that teenagers fantasized about, as I once had, and not something that had as much of an impact on adults, because I had never engaged in a real discussion about it, and I had only experienced it from a teenager’s perspective. This event challenged the way I perceived suicide- this is something that can impact anyone, of any age or race or gender, and furthermore, there are groups of people that are at an even higher risk, and we must take steps in upstream thinking and prevention.

People often ask “why?” in relation to people’s reasoning in their decisions regarding suicide, but I believe, especially as nurses, we must ask ourselves “What can we do better?” A study by Burrows et al (2013) found that while preventing access to methods of suicide can reduce incidence, it does not take into consideration psychological distress that people experience. Thus, prevention, adequate and confidential access to resources, and breaking down the stigmas surrounding suicide must be promoted not only in healthcare, but in day-to-day life.

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Photo Reflective Response, Trigger Warning: Suicide. (2020, July 15). WritingBros. Retrieved May 23, 2024, from
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