Suicide Prevention

Video / May 6, 2015


BONNIE:  I think, sometimes, we forget that those strong ones, the ones that look they got it all together, they're doing it, are perhaps the ones that are least likely to seek out help.

MCPL TROY NICHOL:  It wasn't like I woke up one day just out of the blue and was like “I'm going to kill myself today”.

LCOL ALEXANDRA HEBER:  What we know about most times that people become suicidal it's in the presence of mental health problem and mental illness.  So there is an existing mental illness.  And then in top of that, there is a life crisis.  So that could be a relationship breakup.  Or it could be some kind of a problem in the workplace. We want to be able to prevent... to prevent those cases.  Those cases don't happen so often; but they're very, very tragic.

CPL SIMON ROBERT: I separated from my wife and afterwards I fell into a deep depression. I had gambling and alcohol problems. It affected my entire self-esteem. I had trouble going back to work. It caused a lot of arguments with my fellow employees. I became a monster, someone who was angry all the time. And my interpersonal relationships with everyone became difficult.

TROY:  You know, I'm not even sure what caused it.  I got a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress.  I can see it... I can't...  It's not like I’m in denial.  I just...  I am the way I am.  It wasn't even that I ever want to kill myself.  I just for some reason couldn't get it out of my head.  I had like 40, 50, 60 times a day sometimes just mental images and urges to throw myself off a bridge or plunge a knife into my arm. 

SIMON: A Friday morning, just like that, I came in really messed up from the night before. My chain of command basically took me in hand. They really helped me out. I wasn’t even able to make a decision by myself. So I was escorted to the hospital.   

TROY:  Intrusive thoughts that would compel me to do something. And obviously, I had resisted.  I don't know if that was from medication help or from hanging out with my dogs or whatever.  But that's how it kind of surfaced in me.  It's not like I was sitting in my bedroom reading poetry and setting out a noose.

BONNIE RUSHOWICK:  My name is Bonnie Rushowick.  And I live here in Saskatchewan.  And I'm talking about our son Patrick.  Patrick was a captain in the Armed Forces.  He was in engineers.  He was our middle child, our second son, not so little boy.  He was about six foot six with a grin to match.  Patrick was in the Armed Forces for 10 years, always interested in it.  And he had been in army cadets.  He had been in scouts.  He joined up right before he graduated from Grade 12.  He went to the Royal Military College.  He served in Haiti.  He called us a few times.  And his biggest stories were about the size of the bugs.  He couldn’t get over that.  He says they are Godzillas over here, Mom.  They're Godzillas.  June 2013.  June 11th, Patrick had some very horrible news.  He was married.  Some things happened that were really, really, just hit him very suddenly.  And we lost him.

RICARDO CERVI:  Patrick was a really good friend of mine, a neighbor and basically a brother.  We were sitting in his garage. And he got some bad news.  We spent the whole night together discussing everything.  He was drinking.  I wasn't.  I had an exam....  I was trying to, you know, focus his attention where he needed to; get him calmed down; tell him everything was OK.  I don't know if he did this to try to hurt someone.  But the only people he hurt were the people that loved him.

BONNIE:  There could have been so many ways we could have helped him.  I think as a mom that was the hardest.  I had no chance to help him.

RICARDO:  I feel that just given time, he just made a very rash decision, most likely on a good mend, on a good road, given the right time and the right help and just, support  you know, it was rough.  But I've seen a lot of people go through what he was going through.

ALEXANDRA:  When a suicide occurs the devastation of the people around the person who is suicidal, people ask themselves: "Did I miss something?"

RICARDO:  Looking back at it, I’m quite the over-thinker.  So I've processed this over and over.  As to what could I have done, is there anything I could have done differently...?

LCOL JOËL FILLION: I think the big challenge here is perhaps the despair of not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And maybe trying to connect with the individual to show them that there are definitely other options.

ALEXANDRA: When a person attempts suicide is you get this more impulsive, coming together of all these factors.  And therefore it's a temporary state.  So if that person gets.... especially if they get the help they need, their symptoms are decreased.  Their likelihood is that they're going to get over those suicidal thoughts.  In fact, that's what happens in treatment. 

TROY:  It's just a compulsion. And it doesn't make sense.  I mean nothing about suicide is logical.  Our bodies are not wired for self-destruction.  They're wired for self-preservation.  And when you get those urges it's kind of like a cross wire in your head.  And you're thinking one thing; but you're feeling another. 

RICARDO:  It's hard to even put words onto it.  I know he didn't want to do that to them. And he was sure as hell whatever he was thinking like the professionals say he just wanted to make things easier for people.  He sure as hell didn’t, he made them a hell of a lot worse, what he did.  Like you know, if he could come walking my front door right now, the first thing I would do is give him a huge hug.  Second thing I would do is knock him the hell out.  Hum.

BONNIE:  It's difficult... It's hard when horrible things happen.  And when they are in your mind, when they're in your heart it's difficult to share with others.  You're not sure that others can understand. Nobody can claim to know exactly what's in your heart; but we can... we can be there you.  It doesn't have to be anything formal.  It doesn't have to be a mental health counsellor.  It doesn't have to be... It has to be somebody that you can trust.

JOËL: Often we have the opportunity to be able to talk about it, to be able to identify the risks for ourselves, for others and perhaps intervene.

SIMON: I saw doctors who referred me for therapy so I was able to take care of myself. The therapy lasted 28 days.

TROY:  When they asked me honestly: "Are you going to kill yourself?" I would answer honestly:  "No, I'm not. But I can't get it out of my head."  And I had set an agreement with my doctor, that if it ever came time that I was going to say jump off a bridge, that instead of just jumping off the bridge that I would just get on the phone and call 911.  And my co-workers at the time were very supportive, especially my leadership, my C.O. and my Sergeant-Major.  They knew that I was having significant problems with mental health. And they didn't have to make a lot of accommodations; but they were willing to.  And they were upfront about it. 

ALEXANDRA:  One of the things about the military population that I learned very early was we have a very stoic group of people working in the military  You know that sense of stoicism and I should be able to help myself.  And you know maybe this problem isn't really worth bothering people.  So one of the things I want to say in fact to people is that there is no problem that is too small.

SIMON: ...I really rediscovered my will to live. I was able to work on myself. And now, it will soon be three years. I am completely rehabilitated now. I’ve gone back to work.   

TROY:  I took a very proactive approach towards my therapy.  I took it really seriously.  I tried to get the most out of it as I could.  It wasn't just I’m attending because I have to attend.  And this guy, he won’t understand me it’s like, if he doesn't understand me I'm going to keep talking until he does understand.  And with the suicidal thoughts I'm going to keep talking until he gets what I'm saying.

SIMON: Today I’m not on any medication now. I am living my life. I have rebuilt my life. I’ve met a fantastic person with whom I have had another child. I live my life day to day.

JOËL: A message that’s important here, I think, is that if you have suicidal thoughts, don’t wait, the resources are there. I know it isn’t necessarily easy to take that step. But there really is help out there for you.    

TROY:  The way your body reacts can be conditioned.  Just like you're conditioned to as a soldier to respond a certain way with your weapon to a stoppage, you can condition your body to respond a certain way to an elevated response. There's lots of tools available and that's good; because not one cure... one size fits all.

BONNIE:  It's no different than when my car.  starts making a funny noise, if I leave it, it can turn into a major disaster.  I could be stuck in the road someplace; cause things fell out.  If I go to the experts, get it fixed, get it looked at, I can go on, I can cope.

SIMON: I would say that I have a really good career. I might have liked to have these problems before my military career, but unfortunately it happened in the middle of it. So I want to thank the Canadian Forces basically for supporting me throughout the whole thing; it means that now I am here to share my story and help people who are going through the same things as me.

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