World Suicide Prevention Day: Suicide-related contacts up 34% in 2021
Distress Centre introduces crisis text support
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day – a day to bring awareness to suicide prevention and end the stigma that surrounds the topic. We acknowledge what a difficult year it has been for many. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help. Distress Centre provides a 24 hour crisis line as well as daily online chat support. In order to continue to remove the barriers to accessing help, we are excited to introduce daily crisis text support.
Text 403-266-4357 from 3pm-6am on weekdays and 12pm- 6am on weekends to speak with a highly trained volunteer.
“As communication preferences change over time, Distress Centre needs to adapt its services to the needs of Calgarians,” said Mike Velthuis Kroeze, Interim Director of Programs at Distress Centre. “Research has shown that people are more likely to discuss their thoughts of suicide when using methods such as text or chat. We are excited to be introducing texting as a way to connect with Distress Centre’s highly trained volunteers in addition to our phone and online chat services.”
Increasing suicide-related contacts
At Distress Centre, we have seen a continuous increase in suicide-related contacts. In 2021 so far, we have experienced a 34% increase in suicide related contacts compared to the same period last year. Since January 2021, suicide has been the 3rd top issue on our crisis lines. To our knowledge, January was the first time that suicide ideation entered our top three issues for crisis calls.
We know that people are more comfortable talking about suicide through online services. In 2021, suicide ideation has been the 2nd top issue among our crisis chats and suicide has been a presenting issue in 52% of chats. Crisis text support provides another option for people to receive help in a way that they’re comfortable with.
''We are excited to be introducing texting as a way to connect with Distress Centre’s highly trained volunteers in addition to our phone and online chat services.'' - Mike Velthuis Kroeze, Interim Director of Programs
Despite the increase in suicide-related contacts, we have not seen an equal increase in contacts that require emergency interventions (which includes suicides in progress). Preliminary numbers have also not shown an increase in suicides in Canada during the pandemic so far.
Why are we seeing this increase in suicide-related contacts when emergency interventions and completed suicides have not increased? Though we can’t say for certain, our optimistic hope is that the stigma around this topic is decreasing and people are more comfortable reaching out for help before it gets to a point of attempting suicide.
A difficult time for Calgarians
Mike says that as a result of the pandemic, Calgarians are facing social and economic challenges that not long ago may have seemed inconceivable.
“Many individuals and families are facing financial ruin and social distancing requirements have cut many people off from the professional and personal supports that they have relied on in the past,” Mike continued. “These factors, among others, are reflected in the increase in reports of suicidal ideation amongst people contacting Distress Centre. While these increases are concerning, it is also important to note that these increases also suggest that people are willing to reach out for help and Distress Centre is proud to be available 24/7 when we are needed most.”
''While these increases are concerning, it is also important to note that these increases also suggest that people are willing to reach out for help and Distress Centre is proud to be available 24/7 when we are needed most.'' - Mike Velthuis Kroeze, Interim Director of Programs
When the flood happened in Calgary in 2013, we saw the impact of it in our contacts for years after. Often when a disaster or crisis first occurs, supports are put in place and the community comes together to respond. As time goes on that support and community togetherness may fade and mental health issues increase.
The pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that still continues over 18 months after it first began. It’s difficult for us to predict the impact we will see in our contacts moving forward. What we do know is that no matter what, Distress Centre will be here for Calgarians.
Contact us by phone (24/7) or text (daily) at 403-266-4357 or chat online at distresscentre.com.
If you know someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide and aren’t sure what to do, this guide may help.
Source: Centre for Suicide Prevention