For Angela Yu, the power of listening and looking beyond the surface is essential to preventing youth suicide. “Being directly involved as a Campaign Associate—on loan from the University of Victoria’s Business Co-op Program—I have learned how much of an impact United Way’s network of services has in our community. Some of the programs we fund are programs I use. I started to share my personal story with others to help bring awareness to a sensitive topic*.
Last year I was having dinner with my family. My brother finished first and started to clean up—that was when he decided to share some recent news about his friend. He said, “Do you remember Sam? Well, he’s dead. He hung himself”. I was shocked and in disbelief. Sam was one of my brother’s best friends and someone I saw regularly at our house. When I finally believed my brother’s words, I went upstairs to my room to cry. I cried and mourned for my brother and Sam that night. The next day I remember walking to school feeling mad. I was mad because the people around me continued on with their daily lives as if a kind and loving boy did not take his own life just a few days ago. That was the first of four moments that woke me up about how precious life is.
This past winter I was in Hong Kong for a four month internship. One morning, I woke up to an e-mail. Subject line: BCom Student Death. I was a little surprised by the bold subject, but mostly curious of who it was. I opened and read it while I got ready for work, and to my dismay it was someone I knew. It was Calvin—a high school friend, a classmate, someone I often approached before and after business class because I didn’t know anyone else. Calvin took his own life—I was torn and confused about why it happened. He was the most giving and selfless person I knew. Being away in Hong Kong was difficult, as I frantically contacted his closest friends about the news and mourned alone. That was the second moment.
Two weeks later, I was scrolling through Facebook when I noticed a trend in posts: RIP.
After some digging, I found out the posts were about my friend Hailey. She too had died by suicide. She was such a happy and smiley person in high school—again, I didn’t understand why it happened. In fact, I didn’t understand why any of this was happening. I mourned for her. That was the third moment.
The fourth moment is important to mention. This summer, I drove up to a beach in Sooke with my friend Emily. We sat and listened to the waves crashing below us. We started to chat light heartedly—leading us to reveal deep parts of ourselves. That was when Emily decided to share something significant. She told me, “I tried to kill myself last year, but I wasn’t successful. So I saw a therapist last summer and I am much better now”. I was scared when she told me this, because I didn’t know how to react. I looked into her eyes and told her, “Emily, thank you so much for sharing this with me, and I am so happy that you are still here with us”.
My first three experiences with suicide were shocking, the fourth scary. Mental health is a growing concern here in Victoria, where youth aged 15-19 years die by suicide 300% more than anywhere else in BC. Suicidal thoughts can consume the mind. They stay with you and no matter how hard you try to get rid of them, you can continue to hurt until it becomes too much to bear.
Suicide is a topic that is generally taboo, and even shameful in many cultures, but we need to open up this conversation in order to become more aware and educated. And it’s not just about awareness—it’s also about prevention.
That is why United Way supports programs like NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support, to help youth overcome the darkest moments of their lives. Other issues that could be contributing to their distress, such as disability difficulties, homelessness, job stability, or addiction, can also be supported by United Way’s network of services.
My plea to you is to get involved: help your loved ones, your children, a friend, a stranger. Contribute now to build a better community. It took my experiences to realize that these issues aren’t always on the surface, so don’t wait for it to happen to you. Be part of the change that could be behind someone’s life. Let them know you are listening. And if you are contemplating suicide, there is hope for you deep inside you. We need you to be leaders in this conversation.
United, we are stronger. United, we are change makers. United, we do more.”
You can make a difference between surviving and thriving youth in our community.
For more information about or help with any of these issues, please contact bc211 at bc211.ca or call/text 2-1-1. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-SUICIDE.
*My story involves people I love, so I have changed their names out of respect for them, and their families and friends.