On December 7th, I received the news that someone I cared for had committed suicide. It’s been almost two months since then and it’s still hard for me to write or think of them in past tense — “they were…”, “he was…”. Loss, despair, grief, all of those emotions you feel when someone you know has passed away hit me like a tidal wave — all at once. Because of how sudden it was, I could have easily let myself drown in all the grief I felt, but instead I decided I was not going to let it weigh me down, and have slowly been making my way back to shore. I understand that for those of you who have felt this pain, it can be hard to process and go through the stages of grief when the loss itself suddenly comes crashing out of nowhere — add to that the extremely personal and inexplicable reasons behind your loved one’s decision and you are confronted with so much confusion and doubt that your emotions begin to cloud everything you thought you knew about this person you cared for so deeply.
I write this piece today to tell you that it’s OK for those who have lost a loved one to feel all these things. It’s OK, and completely natural, to not go through the five stages of grieving — or to go through all of them at once — we all process traumatic news in different ways. That said, be careful not to let your guilt, anger, or any otherwise negative emotion take over and make you another link in this horrible chain. Of course, you’ll feel guilt and doubt. You might question whether you were a good enough friend to them; if there was something you could have done differently; you might wonder, “how could I not have noticed the signs?” You may also feel anger, even rage, at your loved one — how could they have done this, and why? The fact of it is, mental health is a tricky, personal topic and we shouldn't judge anyone who felt suicide was their only option.
Instead, channel your emotions into something more productive. Use them to create more awareness or more understanding, whatever will help make it so that people who are suffering don’t feel that suicide is their only option — because it shouldn’t be. To that end, I’ve been gathering resources I feel should be common knowledge because, sadly, you never know when these resources might be useful. Above all, I want you, the reader, to remember: I want you to be alive. If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, please call 911 first thing. Non-emergency live support is also available at CAMH at: 1-800-463-2338.
Assaulted Women's Helpline: 416-863-0511
Distress Line/Centres of Toronto: 416-408-4357 (confidential interpretation is available in 151 languages)
Mental Health Service Information: 1-866-531-2600
North York General Hospital - Adult Mental Health Case Management Program: 416-632-8701
East Toronto/Scarborough Court - CMHA: 416-285-4177
West Toronto/Etobicoke-CMHA: 416-745-5775
Self-Help Resource Centre Info Line: 416-487-4355
Anishnawbe Health Mental Health Crisis Line: 416-891-8606