Suicide Prevention Day hits home

Community event aims to erase stigma

Attendees at World Suicide Prevention Day in Kingston were invited to write inspirational quotes or poems on a banner.
Attendees at World Suicide Prevention Day in Kingston were invited to write inspirational quotes or poems on a banner.

Yesterday marked the first observance of World Suicide Prevention Day in Kingston.

The event was hosted by the Kingston branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Confederation Park, and was geared toward the entire community with a goal of educating and spreading the word about suicide prevention and mental illness stigma.

“We want to get the message out there that it’s okay to talk about suicide,” said Cynnimon Rain, CMHA Kingston volunteer coordinator.

Rain said her own husband took his own life in 1995, an event that those around her were reluctant to talk about at the time because of the attached stigma.

Seventeen years later, she’s seen some of this stigma lifted, thanks in large part to Queen’s students, she said.

“The youth and [their] open minds bring change and that’s what we need,” she said.

The event ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and although it started slow, more people showed up throughout the day to show their support. The event included speakers and performances from local musicians.

The event organizers hoped to provide a venue for people to share their stories, and help develop a community of support. Participants were invited to fill a banner with quotes or poems and by the end of the day the entire piece exuded notes of hope and inspiration.

“It’s just a really great message, ‘Hope Matters,’” attendee Patricia Orser said, referring to the event’s theme. Orser, a Masters student at Queen’s and a mental health first aid instructor, said it’s important to get a conversation going about suicide to get rid of the stigma associated with it.

CMHA lists Queen’s University as a community partner on their website.

World Suicide Prevention Day is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a day to promote “worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides.” In 2011, the day was observed in an estimated 40 countries. The organization notes that globally suicide kills almost 3,000 people daily on average.

Two years ago, Kingston resident and attendee Patty Rivera Schaeff lost her son Aiden to suicide a month before his eighteenth birthday.

Rivera Schaeff said her son, who was transgender, was a charismatic, imaginative, well-loved young man. Despite Aiden’s supportive, close-knit group of friends, she said he was heavily bullied because of his perceived differences.

“I think his suicide was about figuring it was never going to change,” Rivera Schaeff said.

WHO states that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 to 14 according to WHO. According to the Trevor Project, an American suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, almost half of transgender people seriously consider suicide at some point and a quarter have attempted it.

Driven by the tragic death of her son, Rivera Schaeff went on to start an anti-bullying campaign.

She received letters from all over the US from people whose lives had been touched with similar struggles and affected by Aiden’s story.

“When you feel despair you don’t necessarily remember all the love that’s around,” she said. “No matter how awful it seems right now, just hold on, seek help.”


All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.