Community Torchlight Walk for Suicide Awareness and Prevention

September 2, 2009

Making a Difference

I just returned from thanking all the walkers.

These are my speaking notes.  They contain some disturbing statistics:

Good evening.

 I am pleased to be here to offer a few words on behalf of the City of Guelph.

I want to thank Community Torchlight of Wellington/Dufferin for hosting this important event. And thank you to all the staff and volunteers of Community Torchlight for your service to this community.

Thank you to everyone who walked tonight. You are not only raising money for suicide prevention; you are helping to reduce the stigma that still, unfortunately, surrounds the tragedy of suicide.

As many of you know, suicide is not uncommon in our society.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, over the past ten years in Ontario, more men have died of suicide than in car accidents. Around the world, the number of people who die from suicide is more than double the number who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year.

Think of the amount of time we spend in our society talking about road safety, and developing policies and campaigns to reduce car accidents.  Think of the soul-searching we go through as a country every time a member of our armed forces dies in conflict.

Yet, we find it hard to talk about suicide – even though it impacts so many people in our country, and in our community.

We know that suicide is often linked with mental illness. About a year ago, the Canadian Medical Association did a poll on attitudes about mental illness.  One of the most shocking results was that only 50% of respondents said they would tell a friend that a family member has a mental illness, compared to 72% who would disclose a cancer diagnosis.

This is the kind of deep-rooted stigma that hinders our progress in suicide prevention and mental health. If people feel ashamed and stigmatized, how will they ever reach out for the help they need?

This event tonight is a positive and inspiring step towards erasing the stigma of suicide. Everyone who participated tonight is sending a message to survivors of suicide that says: we support you, we are here for you, and there is no need to be ashamed.

As Mayor of Guelph, I am proud to add my voice to that message.  This Walk is a powerful way to remember those we have lost, and to come together in support of all those whose lives have been touched by suicide. And, it is a powerful way to help bring the issue of suicide out of the shadows in our community.

Thank you again to everyone who walked tonight. You are making a difference.


About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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