Despite COVID-19 making it impossible for the West Nipissing Suicide Prevention Task Force to hold their annual Flame of Hope lighting ceremony, the Flame will still shine bright in Minnehaha Bay.
It’s been part of the Task Force’s initiative to help bring suicide awareness to the community for years. Normally, a ceremony is held at the Sturgeon Falls Marina on September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day, and features local speakers and dignitaries sharing their battle with mental health and suicide. The lighting of the Flame was previously done in the local high schools in front of students as well.
Despite not having the ceremony, Tina Bouffard, Chair of The Suicide Prevention Task Force, hopes that the community still finds solace in the flame.
“Because of the pandemic, we are unable to hold our usual ceremonies. Despite that, we are still going to have to light the flame, and it will still be at Minnehaha Bay for the week for the whole community to find strength in. We will also have an information booth inside of Twiggs with all sorts of pamphlets and information for anyone who needs it.” She said.
Bouffard says that this year suicide prevention is as important as it’s ever been.
“The sense of anxiety and uncertainty that comes with the pandemic is overwhelming to many people and the negative impact that COVID-19 has on mental health is profound.” She shared. “According to experts, the effects of the pandemic will be present in our lives for a long time. We still don’t know what’s going to happen with the threat of another lockdown in the cards.”
Bouffard adds that suicide rates may not have risen significantly during the COVID 19 pandemic, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care. Coronavirus brought a sense of loneliness, stress, and anxiety to our lives, which often leads to depression and suicide.
“That’s why we need to be concerned and look for any signs of suicidal behaviors among our loved ones, especially if they have mental health problems. Act quickly as soon as you notice the warning signs, and involve as many people as possible.” She finished.
According to the Government of Canada, an average of more than 10 Canadians die by suicide every day. For every person lost to suicide, many more experience thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.