Cumberland communities addressing suicide together

Darrell Cole
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Walk to create awareness of CAST chapter

Sarah Rushton of Maggie’s Place and John Rossong of Cumberland Mental Health Services look over plans for the World Suicide Prevention Day Walk in Amherst on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. 

AMHERST – A group of community members are coming together to end the silence surrounding suicide.

People from throughout Cumberland County will converge on Amherst on Sept. 10 to mark World Suicide Prevention Day with a suicide awareness walk.

The walk begins at 6 p.m.

It’s part of an effort to begin a community dialog about suicide and create a local chapter of CAST (Communities Addressing Suicide Together).

“Acknowledging World Suicide Day is an opportunity for all sectors of the community to rally together to call attention to the issue of suicide in Cumberland County and to support work that is being done to address suicide,” organizing committee member Janice Melanson said. “The message of World Suicide Prevention Day is that there is hope. When members of the community work together, we can create communities that are safer from suicide.”

Following a short walk through downtown Amherst, participants will be invited to a presentation at town hall about CAST, an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division that aims to build community capacity to address suicide through education, training, awareness and coalition building.

A representative of CAST will on hand for the presentation.

Melanson said communities across the province are working with CAST to create coalitions to raise awareness of suicide.

“Community members know how things work in their areas and offer unique insight to help determine the best way to address suicide education and awareness,” she said. “It requires the efforts of all kinds of people with different backgrounds and different helping experiences.”

Organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association, the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization play a key role in World Suicide Prevention Day that was started in 2003.

In 2011, an estimated 40 countries held awareness events to mark the occasion, with Nova Scotia hosting three events.

Melanson said suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. She said there is strong evidence that adequate prevention can reduce suicide rates.

“This is an important issue,” said committee member Colleen Dowe. “The committee hopes that the walk will help raise awareness and decrease the stigma about suicide.”

Organizing committee members include representatives from Cumberland Mental Health, Maggie’s Place, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, Geriatric Care, Public Health and the area’s three community health boards.

It also involves community members who have been touched by suicide.

There will be a Collateral Damage ( exhibit at town hall in the week leading up to the walk. Collateral Damage was started by Canadian Scott Chisholm, who lost his father to suicide three decades ago.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Line is available to all Nova Scotians 24 hours a day, seven days a week toll-free at 1-888-429-8167.

For local mental health support, contact Cumberland Mental Health Services at 667-3879.

For more information on CAST and its programs and services, contact the Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division at 466-6600 or by email at


Organizations: Cumberland, Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division, International Association for Suicide Prevention World Health Organization Central Regional School Board Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Line

Geographic location: AMHERST, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia Chignecto

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