With the goals of both raising awareness and funds to help folks access the services they need, the 4th Annual Ponoka Suicide Prevention Walk was held on Sept. 9.
“Before I got into the Victim Services world, I was a paramedic. In 2020, I lost two of my medic partners to suicide,” said organizer Brittany Sande who also owns Brittany Jo & Co Wellness.
“Through being on the frontlines and seeing the gaps in service, I opened up my wellness clinic,” said Sande, who is also a mental health practitioner.
“I also put my pain to passion and knew that I needed to do more, so I started the walk,” she said.
This year’s event drew about 45 people.
“It was a good number considering there were a number of other events going on in town that day,” she said, adding that Boston Pizza also donated pizza for the participants to enjoy after the event.
“We also collected $500 from the walk that will go to help clients who can’t access mental health (support) or counseling due to finances,” she explained.
“This will help give them a chance to access those services.”
The walk started out from Brittany Jo & Co wellness and was about a 1.4 kilometre route.
Sande said that during the event, some information was also made available to those in attendance, including numbers to various crisis lines and other local resources.
She also pointed out that one of the major misunderstandings about suicide is that it’s assumed people who are vulnerable are typically very depressed.
“In reality, it can be the happiest person in the room, the life of the party, and someone who is checking in on others. Suicide doesn’t target a race, age, or tax bracket. However, it affects way more people than we could even imagine.
“To help those left behind, I always say we need to listen without judgment and provide a safe space for them to heal. We need to not judge someone else’s journey in grieving but to just be a listening ear when needed.”
Sande was pleased with how the event went, emphasizing that building awareness about both the issue of suicide — and the support that is available — is ultimately what it’s about.
“I always say that if one person shows up, that’s all I need to know that it’s doing something,” she said. “And the more that show up, the more it shows that there is a need for it and that suicide has touched a lot of lives in our own community.”
Those looking for help can call the AHS Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or the 24-hour Suicide Help Line at 1-833-456-4566.