People around Alberta who have lost a loved one to suicide gathered on Saturday virtually to share their stories.
Despite the mental health challenges that COVID-19 brings, the number of suicide deaths in the province has decreased since the pandemic began.
Greg Duhney completed a piece of art his younger brother never got a chance to finish. Kevin Duhney died by suicide in 2012 when he was 33 years old.
“I didn’t experience anger, but I did feel a lot of blame and guilt on myself,” Duhane said from her home in Calgary on Saturday.
“I had to re-watch all those moments where I thought it was my fault where it ended, but really, it was out of my control.”
Since his brother’s death, Dohney has been an advocate for others dealing with the complex emotions that suicide loss survivors feel.
On Saturday, he spoke at the Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event. This is the second year it has been held virtually due to the pandemic.
“The intimacy was there. It was visceral. People were able to tell their stories and go through all the throes of feelings that come with suicidal loss,” Duhane said.
For the past 16 years, the Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region has hosted Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.
Duhane said the pandemic has opened the door for people to talk about mental health.
“I think the pandemic is contributing to people’s feelings of hopelessness and isolation, but the topic of mental health has become very hot in the media and people are constantly exposed to it,” Duhane said.
“I think conversation is a lot more available now and people can talk about feelings of sadness and depression and the feelings they’re struggling with.”
But contrary to the belief that the suicide rate will increase during the pandemic, Alberta stats Show that the number of suicides has come down slightly to 592 in 2020.
This compares to over 600 in each of the last four years.
“I think at this point, we’re left more with speculation than anything,” said Dr. Michael True, chairman of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Calgary board.
True said the drop in deaths could be a matter of people finding strength in the community.
“I parallel this somewhat to what we’ve seen in times of war where communities have a collective purpose and a sense of pulling together,” True said.
“We actually see a more significant drop in death rates from suicide in times like these, especially when you think about World War II.”
However, True added that it is also possible that we could see higher rates in the coming years, as the data has also shown that in times of economic downturn, it is possible to increase the risk of death when it comes to suicide deaths.
“There’s a lag. Often it’s a year or two before you really see it emerging in the statistics. Whether we see something like that, I think time will tell,” True said.
As far as milking is concerned, he said that a big part of recovering from the grief of suicide is to surround yourself with others who have embarked on the same journey.
“It’s important to be around people who are going through the same complex emotions that come with the loss of suicide, such as self-blame and guilt and in some cases sadness and anger,” Duhane said.
“Immersing yourself in a community of people who are going through the same thing is the key to really getting through the grief of suicide and to surround yourself with professionals who help with the grieving process that comes with the loss of suicide.” can help you understand and generalize.”
If you or someone you know needs assistance, call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645.