Program aims to reduce suicide

It may be a difficult subject to talk about, but doing just that can help save lives.

Shannon Hecker, Canadian Mental Health Association Co-ordinator

Shannon Hecker, Canadian Mental Health Association Co-ordinator

It may be a difficult subject to talk about, but doing just that can help save lives.

Each year more than 500 people in British Columbia die by suicide.

Although suicide is a leading cause of death for youth aged 15-24, the impact of suicide can be much greater among older people.

To try to save lives, the Ministry of Health has provided $3 million in funding to provide training in suicide intervention in B.C.

Programs designed to create suicide safer communities will be delivered through the Canadian Mental Health Association and community partners.

Dubbed the Community Gatekeeper program, the local Action Team of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative has contributed funds to bring the program to the Shuswap.

Community Gatekeepers are people who have been trained to recognize when someone could be at risk of suicide, talk with them, help them keep safe, and connect them to appropriate supports and resources.

“Community Gatekeeper training offers simple, life-saving, suicide intervention skills that anyone can, learn,” says Shannon Hecker, regional gatekeeper co-ordinator. “Much like first aid, having the knowledge, skills and confidence to help someone at risk can be the difference between life and death.”

Community Gatekeeper training has been shown to be effective at increasing knowledge, skill and willingness to intervene, as well as helping reduce the risk of suicide, says Hecker, noting more than 100,000 people in 30 countries attend similar training each year.

Across B.C., CMHA is working to train 20,000 community gatekeepers over the next three years.

“Our goal is to make Salmon Arm, the Shuswap and region a safer place to live,” says Hecker. “Community gatekeepers are in the unique position of being able to help prevent suicide and save lives – not just as first responders, but as elders, teachers, clergy and coaches. We’d like to help train people in every workplace, organization and the community at large.”


To learn more about upcoming training opportunities in the region, contact Shannon Hecker at 250-253-5054 or email



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