September is Suicide Prevention Month: Let’s Create Hope Through Action

September is suicide prevention month, depicted by two friends hugging, supporting each other, offering hope.

In Canada, more than 10 people die by suicide every day. Although suicide occurs frequently, there is still a lot of stigma around suicide and efforts to prevent it. September is Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout the month, groups comprised of representatives from all sectors—workplace, health services, community, school boards, and post-secondary institutions—organize events designed to bring awareness of and provide education on the issue of suicide.

WARNING! This article may trigger emotional responses. Use your self-care and mindfulness resources to sit with the contents of this post and seek help if you need it.

I personally am triggered by the word “prevention.” In addition to the deep grief I feel as a suicide survivor, this word has also consumed me with guilt and shame. I am still having a hard time making sense of it. Could I have said or done anything differently? Why did I not see it coming?  

Suicide has been a topic that I’ve avoided speaking about in the past because I didn’t know how.  By breaking the stigma and sharing my story I’ve come to realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know—and that stops now.  What if….

Life has gotten overwhelming for you and you can’t seem to find your way out of it. Try as you might you just can’t seem to shake the feeling of gloom and despair. Perhaps you are driving down a busy highway and for a fraction of a second the thought crosses your mind that a slight shift of the steering could head you into oncoming traffic and put an end to the dread.

For many, these thoughts are fleeting as our body’s survival instinct comes online and enhances our awareness. Our body straightens and we become alert with a heightened sense our surroundings. The moment has passed and life goes on. We suppress the feelings, forget we even had the thought, and NEVER talk about it.

Perhaps we’ve been taught never to show signs of weakness for fear of being judged. As a result, we hide our thoughts and feelings from the world. We disconnect from the core of our being and put on a “happy face.” But what happens when we can no longer fake it?

Create Hope Through Action and Be the Light

The World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that ”We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide whether as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a person with lived experience.”

World Suicide Prevention Day was established in 2003 and is held on the 10th of September each year to reduce  stigma and raise awareness among organizations, government, and the public, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented.”

“We can all encourage understanding about the issue, reach in to people who are struggling, and share our experiences. The theme of “creating hope through action” is a reminder that there is an alternate to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us.”

“Being the light” could mean illuminating the corners of our minds where we have been hiding our fears and sorrows.  Maybe it’s giving voice to our pain and creating a safe space for others to do the same. Maybe it’s re-igniting the spark of our heart to let it shine bright, thus spontaneously re-igniting this heart spark in the world around us. 

How do you keep your light bright? What does it mean to you to “be the light” for others? Take a moment here to reflect on how it feels when our light starts to dim….

We Are Not Our Thoughts

Healthline tell us that “People who attempt suicide aren’t always convinced it’s the only option. It’s more often that they have exhausted their emotional reserves to continue pursuing those options.” “In order to attempt suicide, a person has to be in the neurological state where they can override their own survival instincts. At that point, it’s an acute state—not totally unlike a heart attack or other medical crisis.”

Our thoughts can become like an avalanche that drowns out the part of us that would otherwise choose differently. The author reminds us “We are not our thoughts—we’re the people listening to them.”

If I don’t know to ask for help I won’t get it.  The first step is connecting with the feeling that something does not feel right….are my thoughts sending me spiralling down an abyss? Maybe I need to reach out and talk to a trusted friend or a mental health professional. Maybe I need to stop and listen to my higher guidance.

Checking in with loved ones regularly can be as easy as “How are you?” with a pause to stop and hear their response. This can be enough of a trigger to get someone thinking “How am I, really?” Active listening could help someone feel heard and appreciated—that they matter.

Mindfulness and YOU

In his article “Like Clouds Before the Sun,” Stacey Freedenthal shares that “too often, people who think of suicide regard their thoughts as truth,” yet it doesn’t have to be that way. “Mindfulness enables us to recognize just how transitory thoughts are. They come and they go, like clouds before the sun. Clouds leave, but the sun is still there. It is always there, even when it is completely hidden by the clouds. “Your true essence is always there, untouched by the suicidal thoughts that may hide it for now.”

When we suppress our thoughts and hide our feeling we are not living “our true essence”. Observing our thoughts without judgment and in the moment can reconnect us to the self we are here to be.

We can’t “fix” anyone other than ourselves, but we can provide a safe environment for someone to process their own thoughts and hear them reflected back to them to process and make sense of.

Suicide Prevention is an Urgent and Complex Issue in Mental Health Services

Andrew Shafer created a Suicide Prevention Training, using mindfulness skills to help people navigate suicidal thoughts without acting on them. He writes, “…. people are hardly ever certain that they want to die, but they certainly do not want to go on living in such pain…”  You can try his mindfulness practice detailed in his most recent article, A Mindfulness Practice for Changing Your Relationship to Thoughts.

A practice of mindfulness can build our mental resilience to change and allow life to flow through us. The breath brings us back to the present moment thus interrupting our thought process and reminding us that these thoughts are impermanent; that suffering is impermanent. A quote I learned early in life is that “change is the only constant in life.” That does not mean it was easy, but it did teach me that “this too shall pass.” Mindfulness has taught me to accept the moment.

If someone you know may be experiencing suicidal ideation… know the symptoms…have conversations…listen…be compassionate…be supportive…acknowledge their thoughts and feelings…provide resources…suggest professional help…FOLLOW UP.

Mental health is everyone’s business. As career professionals, our role is often about finding solutions and giving advice. We sometimes forget the value of being with the moment, in the moment, and truly listening with empathy and without judgement; either to our own inner voice or that of our client, colleague, friend, or family member. Unless you are a trained health professional, refrain from giving advice. Know where and how to access help and resources.

Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously—it’s often a cry for help.


If you may be experiencing suicidal ideation…reach out for help…let someone know how you are feeling…pause and know that thoughts and feelings do pass…and remember that…

You are not alone.  Help is available. There is hope.

Canada Suicide Prevention Service 1-833-456-4566 or 911

Coming to Canada in 2023—Suicide Prevention Hotline 9-8-8

Additional Resources

The Workplace and Suicide Prevention Toolkit

Preventing suicide: Warning signs and how to help

Suicide Prevention Help Guide

Workshops—Centre for Suicide Prevention

Carol Brochu combines a 30+ year career in HR, operations, and client service with a unique personal and spiritual development journey that has included studies in Mental Health First Aidenergy work, and self-care disciplines. She is a certified yoga and martial arts instructor, mindfulness facilitator, Me First practitioner, Certified Psychological Health and Safety Professional, CPC member, and Certified Work-Life Strategist.

Photo by milkos on 123RF

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This was a tough article to write and a topic that I hadn’t spoken a lot about until my dad died by suicide last year. Feelings of hopeless and helpless are suppressed and buried and never talked about until the pain becomes unbearable. Feeling safe is key to sharing.
I believe in a world where we are able to share these feelings openly, talk and listen without judgement and just maybe shine our light bright enough to spark the light around us. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention day. Let’s create hope through action. Reach out, connect, take time for self care, light a candle. Be the light. #suicideprevention

Thanks for letting me share my story.

Thanks for shining a light on this very important subject. The resources are also excellent, thank-you Carol.