1,200 Victorians needed to link hospital to legislature
Jean Oliver is asking 1,200 Victorians to hold her hand — or at least each other’s hands. Oliver has initiated the first-annual Victoria human chain rally titled “Connect the DOTS: for Development of Treatment Services for Mental Health,” in an effort to show people affected by suicide that there are, literally, hundreds of people in your own back yard who care.
The rally is set to take place on World Suicide Prevention Day, at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 10, at the corner of Fort and Richmond. Gatherers will link hands all the way from Royal Jubilee Hospital’s mental health ward down to the legislature buildings in a symbolic move to show how broken the path is between provincial legislation and the B.C. health system — as well as how we can mend it. But while Oliver knows it would take 1,200 people to line the streets between the hospital and downtown, she’s got a back-up plan if fewer show up: the group will march to the legislature themselves.
“When someone calls out for help, we need to respond quickly,” says Oliver, 52, who has battled suicide herself and within her family. “I need people to know that there are so many out there who care, and I don’t know how else to do that but to show them we are all standing right here for them.”
The rally, which Oliver has been planning since June, is meant as both a tribute to those lost to suicide, as well as a call of support for those currently suffering from suicidal thoughts. Each participant will be given a DOTS sticker to wear during the chain and to write a tribute message to a loved one lost, or surviving. The group will convene at the legislature at noon, where a special commemoration ceremony will take place honouring those who lost their struggle, followed by guest speakers, including Victoria MP Denise Savoie.
“The saddest thing is that we are not allowed to mourn that [suicidal] passing the way we are other deaths,” says Oliver. “We are so scared to talk about it, and we’re worried about hurting our loved ones’ reputations if people find out what happened, but we have to realize their lives meant something, and they deserved to be celebrated — they mattered.”
Oliver is a single mother of two boys and has been fighting her own battle with depression and suicide for over six years after an accident left her unable to work. As Monday first reported in June, Oliver started cutting herself and has survived four suicide attempts using alcohol and pills. She tried to check herself into the hospital three times, and was rejected each time.
Oliver is now in recovery, avoids mood-altering substances — even coffee and sugar — and keeps herself busy to avoid “the wolves at her back.” Still, she knows thousands of Canadians are worse off than her. Over 3,700 people die by suicide each year in Canada, with one child (age 12 to 18) dying by suicide every day. Since the initial article, Oliver has been contacted by dozens of residents telling her their own story and looking for help. She directs them to crisis line support, but says there is an overall lack of resources.
“At the end of the rally we are mailing the messages, along with a call to government for our politicians to stand up for people who are begging for help,” says Oliver. “We want these four points: one, provide access to emergency services for every request, regardless of the evaluation; two, provide a bed to patients who have to wait more than four hours in a mental health ward; three, provide funding for those who need psychotherapy by a registered psychotherapist; four, build a cohesive strategy for suicide prevention, which may be initiated as soon as help is sought.”
This year, Oliver secured rally funding from the Camosun College Student Society, where she studies. She’s hoping the event will be such a success that next year DOTS can register as a non-profit society. M
Facebook page: “Development of Treatment Services DOTS BC,” or email email@example.com. For resources, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: suicideprevention.ca.