Suicides don't often make the news headlines but just because they're not reported doesn't mean they're not happening here.
And when they do — and more than 3,500 happen in Canada every year — they can have devastating effects for the friends and family left behind. That's why service providers in the Sea to Sky corridor are stepping up to the plate this year to raise awareness.
"Based on some of the experiences in our community, specifically speaking to the losses of a couple of people who were very well connected in our community, a group of service providers decided to come together to focus collectively on the topic of suicide awareness and prevention," said Christine Buttkus, Sea to Sky outreach coordinator with the North Shore Schizophrenia Society.
The money to pay for this outreach program, which is targeting employers to get them aware of the warning signs of mental illness, comes from the Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund. This year's $1,500 grant is one more example of the rippling effects from the money invested with the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) and spread throughout the community.
And one more reason why Pique Newsmagazine is spearheading a drive for more donations to the CFOW in the lead up to the holiday season.
Pique will match donations up to $10,000. Those who donate have the chance to win a pair of Prior skis or a snowboard.
Jill Ackhurst died from cancer in 2003. She was 57 years old. In the wake of her death, the social action fund was created through the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW). It has grown to $64,000. The interest from the fund — sometimes a couple of thousand dollars, sometimes less, is divvied amongst community groups every year like the Howe Sound Women's Shelter in 2007 and the Whistler Community Services Society interim housing program in 2009.
"I think Jill was really passionate about serving the community," said Buttkus, who knew Ackhurst personally. "I hope that she would feel honoured by the work that's being done by the fund because sometimes even very small grants can have a tremendous impact and I think that's the case here."
Husband Peter Ackhurst said that she volunteered her time tirelessly in the community be it in Tanzania where she worked in human nutrition with the government or in the Sea to Sky corridor.
"She just had a really caring feeling for different people," said Ackhurst.
"She was very much interested in social concerns."
This year's grant is going to the North Shore Schizophrenia Society, which supports people suffering from all kinds of mental illnesses, not just schizophrenia.
"Most of the individuals that we're seeing aren't reaching us until very late in the process," said Buttkus.
"When those (warning signs) are untreated, then often you will see attempts at suicide so intervention is really critical."
HOW TO DONATE:
Go to www.whistlerfoundation.com or www.piquenewsmagazine.com and click on the SHARE Whistler logo. The CFOW will forward donations (net of 3.9 per cent CanadaHelps processing fee) directly to the donors' charity of choice no later than Jan. 31, 2012.
Select a charity such as Whistler Search and Rescue Society, Whistler Children's Centre Society, the Whistler Health Care Foundation, the Whistler Public Library. Or donate to one of the CFOW's permanent endowment funds such as the Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund.
Like the CFOW Facebook page and Pique will give $1 for each new "Like" up to $1,000.
The deadline for the weekly Prior draws is 7 a.m. each Wednesday. The winner this week: Guillaume Racine.