Raising awareness for suicide prevention

By Jessica Dempsey

September 13, 2017 3:14 PM

Dozens came out for the annual Walk of Remembrance on Saturday, which was in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day. JESSICA DEMPSEY LLS PHOTO

Friends and family gathered for the seventh annual Walk of Remembrance, which was in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day.
On Saturday dozens gathered for a walk around Bud Miller All Seasons Park, as the afternoon was filled with guest speakers, information, music and more.
“It’s a vision that we have had, that people who have lost loved ones should be able to honour their loved ones by walking through this beautiful park,” said Shirley Scott, program director facilitator, Walking Through Grief Society.
The walk offers solidarity and friendship to those who come out and want to remember the memory of those who were lost to suicide. 
“(It’s important) knowing there are others, you’re not alone going through this,” said Scott about the importance of the walk for family and friends.
“I think it’s also to reduce the stigma and shame by saying it’s OK to come here and to walk with my head held high and to honour that loved one. So often the person is shamed because they committed suicide.”
Throughout the past seven years the walk has been held, Scott said the stigma surrounding suicide has definitely changed.
An example she gave was more people opening up about suicide were at the open mic, where children to adults would speak about their struggles.
“It’s hard though, you see people still struggling to come forward and speak, but there are more. I think just being here sometimes is a big thing for people to come out and say ‘I’m part of this,’” said Scott.
At the walk, they offered carnations for people to carry, which was to signify life.
“The carnation is a symbol of something to hold that is alive and gives hope, it’s beautiful, and it smells good,” said Scott.
They also offered “tear cups” to individuals who participated in the walk.
“To show hope again, there is importance in tears and honesty, and being real,” said Scott.
After the walk, there was guest speaker Mackenzie Murphy, Miss Teenage Western Alberta, who addressed the crowd and told her own story of when she tried to take her own life.
“I wanted to come out here today because it’s such an impactful event. I consider myself a suicide survivor in a different way,” she said.
In 2012 Murphy tried to commit suicide after being bullied for many years. She has since been an advocate and raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.
“Being aware of the effects of mental illness is incredibly important. If you yourself are struggling with suicidal thoughts coming to these things, it really helps to give you a grasp of the effects of those actions,” she said.
In the past years, Murphy noted the stigma has changed, especially with the recent influx in social media use.
“Obviously you are going to get the backlash that you are attention seeking, selfish all those kinds of clichés … but, I believe there is so much talk now going on, you are able to have those different opinions and that really helps in changing the way the stigma is,” she said.
Overall, Murphy said she wanted people to know anything can help.
“The smallest actions can make the biggest difference in preventing someone from taking their life,” she said.

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