Jennifer Westwood looks over her notes for her speech at the Honouring Suicide Prevention Event.
A Lethbridge citizen shared her fight with depression and addiction at the Honouring Suicide Prevention event last week.
Jennifer Westwood is a survivor of attempted suicide. Her depression had affected her since the age of thirteen.
Her first attempt at suicide happened at the age of sixteen. As a result, Westwood was hospitalized for six weeks and was put on quite a bit of medication.
Westwood attempted again when she was nineteen by overdosing on pills. Doctors had to pump her stomach in order to keep her alive.
Westwood notes she had thoughts and plans of suicide more often than attempts.
“In reality, I didn’t want to die,” she said, “I just didn’t know how to live.”
Westwood’s speech encompassed all of the confusion and dark that followed her throughout her youth. Her title pinpointed a reoccurring theme that plagued her in her teens.
“She [her mother] used to ask, sometimes in anger, sometimes in frustration – she used to say: ‘I raised you both [Westwood and her brother] the same, where did I go wrong with you?” Westwood said.
She went on to comment that this always stuck with her. As a teenager, she always took this to mean that her brother was better than her.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Westwood said, “I didn’t know why I was different.”
Honouring Suicide Prevention is an annual event held by the Community Interagency Suicide Prevention Council for Suicide Prevention Day.
This year’s theme was Take a Minute, Change a Life. This emphasized the importance of sharing one’s stories to help people overcome similar situations.
It also encourages people to take a moment and help others with small acts of kindness. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention [CASP] suggests that people wear awareness ribbons or light candles to get the conversation going.
Brad Moser, the MC at the Honouring Suicide Prevention event, suggested that events that spur on conversation could help normalize the discussion of mental health.
“Our education system needs to be more upfront with mental health and suicide in order for people to become comfortable with talking about it – to reduce the stigmatism,” Moser said.
Westwood agreed with Moser, saying that to a degree, she still struggles with the stigmatism of mental health.
“I am freer to say that I am a recovering addict than I am to say that I am a diagnosed bipolar,” she said.
According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, suicide is in the top ten reasons for Canadian deaths. And the World Health Organization reported that suicide is the second leading cause for death between the ages of 10 and 24.
Westwood now helps people who suffer similar circumstances as she did in her youth. It is through her experiences that she relates to and encourages those who feel there is no hope left.