• Carmen Marie Fabio

Break the silence

PHOTO BY NIK SCHNELL Family Resemblance by artist Timothy Hunt was part of last year’s Skelly Gallery Garden sculpture show in St. Eugène, Ontario. Th e show is running again this year starting May 24 in honour of its founder Philippa Lesniak.

Like most media outlets, we have an agreement with the both the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and Sûreté du Québec (SQ) in that we don’t publicize suicides – attempted or otherwise – in the weekly police reports section. And while I respect this entente, I sometimes question the wisdom that the very subject remains so taboo that we continue to perpetuate a stigma by not mentioning it when maybe, we should really be opening up a dialogue.

Over the three years of writing for Your Local Journal, I’ve had the privilege to receive a number of invitations to many area events; both near and not so near. And while I was intrigued by the photographs that accompanied the warm invitations to attend the annual Garden Sculpture show in St. Eugène, Ontario, I never made the short drive across the border. I’m now wishing that I had made the effort to meet the organizer, a woman with whom I’d had many friendly email exchanges.

Held for the last three years, the Garden Sculpture Show in St. Eugène, Ontario, features outdoor works crafted by artists and artisans from a wide area spanning the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region and across the provincial border (see more info on our Things to See & Do page).

The event is always free but donations for the Canadian Mental Health Association are gladly accepted. This year’s invitation was sent by her husband, along with the news that the Garden Sculpture show had been renamed Philippa’s Garden in honour of its founder Philippa Lesniak who took her own life last month after a battle with a debilitating mental illness.

According to statistics from the Centres de santé et de services sociaux (CSSS), every day in Quebec, about three residents take their own lives, and another 76 people make a suicide attempt. Numbers from 2011 show an annual provincial suicide rate of approximately 1100, representing 1.9 per cent of all deaths – 3 per cent in men and 0.5 per cent in women. As the population ages, statistics reflect an even greater gender gap with suicides attributed to four out of five deaths in men over the age of 65.

As we approach what’s been described as a ‘Silver Tsunami’ with our rapidly aging community members, now is precisely the time to be addressing the issue rather than taking the more comfortable route of evasion.

We’ve evolved enough to successfully remove the stigma surrounding homosexuality and transgender issues. We still have a long way to go in correcting gender pay inequities, domestic violence, and racial tensions but at least nobody shushes us if we bring up the subject.

And while I’m not advocating reporting on every suicide attempt made in our region, it’s time to re-examine our knee-jerk reaction to clamming up about the realities of mental illness.

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