Above: Morinville resident Wesley Jones has fought hard to develop the type of group that did not exist when he needed it most two years ago.
by Stephen Dafoe
The world got pretty dark for Morinville resident Wesley Jones, so dark in fact that he attempted to take his own life two summers ago. But sitting across from him in a local coffee shop to talk about the experience and the road of life since, one can hardly imagine it. Jones sits upright, bright and positive about his direction and his mission. That mission is to find people the support that was not there when he needed it most.
Jones attempted to kill himself in August of 2016, spent two weeks in Alberta Hospital, and was booked to see an individual therapist three months after his release. Given that the highest chance for reattempting suicide is within the first three months after the attempt, the intake with a therapist a quarter of a year away was not what Jones wanted to here.
“There was no support at all,” he said, adding that an inquiry to the Edmonton Mental Health Association for a support group provided no results nor did all other avenues that Jones turned to. “It was hard. My friends and family were there for me a lot. Some of the friends that I was hanging out with more frequently at the time were in psychology, so they knew what to say.”
Jones said a lot of it was not trying to jump back into his everyday life all at once, but instead taking things slow and time off work if need be. At the time, Jones was finishing his training at McEwan in psychology and had one more online course to complete, so he was able to set the time aside to help himself.
But though a group was not there for him, he has continued his efforts to ensure a group is there for those who need it now.
Jones mother Caroline said the family is proud of his efforts to help others.
“Wesley has a real empathy for other people. As he struggled with his own demons and realized how little help was out there, he thought of ways he could improve things,” Caroline Jones said. “Wesley spent months on this, and we are all so proud that his dream was realized.”
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The Survivors of Attempted Suicide group is an eight-week program with facilitators Petal Murti and Grant Wardlow. The program is a partnership between River’s Edge Counselling Centre, the City of St. Albert and the St. Albert Community Foundation.
“Wes approached our practice a year ago to share his struggle finding support following attempted suicide,” said Rivers Edge Counselling Centre Director Nicole Imgrund. “We were moved by his story and his passion to help others. This led us to research what was available and seeing that there is a desperate need for more support, we decided to develop a group for survivors of attempted suicide.”
Under the program, groups of four to eight people, all of whom have survived a suicide attempt, will meet for eight consecutive weeks to discuss their challenges and successes following their suicide attempt. The program provides an opportunity to share stories and strategies for survival.
Jones said as far as he knows, the group is the first of its kind in the country.
“I’m super excited for it, but I’m sad that it took so long,” Jones said. “I looked up some of the stats for suicide attempts in Alberta, and it’s been 50,000 plus a year for the last 20 or 30 years. How many of these people got out and didn’t have the ability to start a group, and they had nothing.”
Jones said two years after his own attempt; he is more aware of his own self-care needs.
“If you start noticing that you are getting worn down, you don’t push through things. You have to be more self-reflective. You have to say, ‘I’m going take a step back, or I’m going to have problems.’ You go to sleep on time. You eat well. You make sure you hang out with your friends.”
Jones said despite all the information out in public there is still a stigma about mental health, and particularly a stigma of depression in men.
“I think depression is seen in guys as a weakness a little bit,” Jones said, adding men often have difficulty in expressing emotions in general. “Women have more [suicide] attempts, but men are more likely to succeed because they are more violent in their means.”
Jones is hoping the program is successful and that it represents the beginning of residents of the region taking mental health and suicide more seriously.
“Whether we get one person or whether we get a backlog for the next five rounds worth, I think it’s going to be a thing,” he said. “The Edmonton Mental Health Association knows about it. The therapists in St. Albert and Edmonton know about it, and it’s been brought to people’s attention.”
More information on the Survivors of Attempted Suicide group is available at https://www.riversedgecounselling.com/survivors-of-attempted-suicide-group/