EDMONTON – An alarming new statistic was brought to St. Albert city council earlier this week. In the first three months of 2016, there was an average of one suicide attempt every day in the bedroom community north of Edmonton.
The information was supplied through a report put together by St. Albert Community and Social Development. The information was compiled using a number of sources, including St. Albert RCMP, local counsellors and community partners.
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While the number is shocking, it doesn’t come as a surprise to Nicole Imgrund, founding director of Rivers Edge Counselling Centre in St. Albert. She said the centre has experienced a spike in calls in recent months and receives a couple of calls per day from people who don’t have access to insurance or the finances to pay for mental health services.
“A lot of our current clients have experienced job loss or underemployment because of the economy and we get a lot more calls every day from people who don’t have the resources to pay for private care services either,” Imgrund said.
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In some cases, the loss of a job comes with the loss of a sense of identity and purpose, Imgrund explained. That can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiousness and depression, she added.
“Any major stressor like unemployment challenges people’s internal coping mechanism. Sometimes people just don’t have the internal resources to cope with that and when you put that together with not having high-quality relationships and support, and again that feeling of helplessness… it’s very difficult for people’s mental health and wellness.”
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Chad Miller knows the struggle all too well. The father-of-three was laid off from his job in the oilfield last January. While he’s worked for a few weeks here and there, he’s really struggled to find steady work in Alberta’s current economic climate.
“The downturn has affected me quite a bit for a number of reasons,” he said from home Wednesday as he tended to his 14-month-old daughter. “We’re sitting here at the end of the year and it’s time to pay the tax man: do you pay him or do you use it to live? And that’s when a lot of people are finding out how far in trouble they are.
“There’s some trying times where you think, ‘you know what? Maybe the insurance on myself would be best and my family would be better off if something happened to me.’”
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Knowing he couldn’t be the only one thinking these thoughts, Miller started the website oilfielddads长沙桑拿 in hopes of connecting with people in similar situations. He quickly learned he was not alone.
“One of the first objectives for me, or first mission I guess, was to build a link for suicide prevention,” he said. “The realism is a lot of people think of that. Everybody in this situation has felt you know, ‘I might as well cash in.’ What’s the point in hanging around when you’ve got so much debt, so much taxes owed and there’s no way to get out of it?”
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In a video he put together on his website, Miller – now known as “oilfield dad Chad” – recognizes that everyone is fighting a battle. He hopes his website can be a place for people to come together and share their stories. Miller said he will make himself available to anyone who wants to talk about what they’re going through.
“A lot of people might think they’re better off without them and nobody will notice. But you’re here for a reason,” he said. “It’s baby steps. It’s not like you’re going to come out of anything and just be 100 per cent.
“Keep smiling and one foot in front of the other.”
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In a statement to Global News, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said “accessible, effective mental health supports for at-risk Albertans is so important.”
“The feedback we received during the mental health review showed there is a lot of work to do in this area. We want to see better access and more seamless treatment for people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness.”
In 2014, there were 531 suicide deaths in Alberta. In 2015, there were 547.
If you are in need of immediate counselling or support, please contact the 24 hour Distress Line at 780-482-HELP (4357).