June 24th, 2024

Local woman and her dog run for suicide prevention

By Cal Braid - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 8, 2022.

Herald photo by Cal Braid Jane Scott and her dog Shadow are running for mental health and suicide prevention.

Lethbridge resident Jane Scott and her dog Shadow like to stay active. Scott and Shadow run together, but it’s more than just exercise that they’re running for these days. In the last year, they’ve used their running as a way to raise both awareness and money for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

Statistics Canada confirms that 11 people die by suicide each day in this nation. That’s over 4000 per year. Health Canada says about 12 per cent of Canadians have had or will have suicidal thoughts in their lifetime.

Scott and Shadow raise money by running to areas of the city where there’s a lot of foot traffic, and then they station themselves, greeting and talking with people. They do it out of compassion and on behalf of the Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP), and they’ve been extremely productive, running 160 kilometres and bringing in over $9000 since January 2022.

“I’ve been a runner for over 20 years,” Scott said. “I did a virtual five kilometre run in Taber, and this couple came up to me and asked, ‘Why are you running?’ I told them I was running for the CSP. They took my number, took a picture, and when I got home, I thought ‘I think I should run in support of people who are suicidal or have mental illness.’ I had to okay it with the CSP in Calgary. Mental illness has affected my family and friends. People out there are struggling. I’ve heard it so many times.”

Shadow wears a vest with the CSP logo on it. Scott hands out pamphlets and talks to people. The two will remain in one spot for up to 90 minutes at time.

“Shadow can only do five kilometers. She ‘told’ me she doesn’t want to do any more than that. I’m a sounding board for people. People come to me, they donate their money, but it seems like everybody has a story as far as mental illness.”

Scott’s personal connection to the issues of mental health and suicide came to her through the most difficult of circumstances. Her brother, Shawn McCarthy, suffered with debilitating illnesses. Bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction afflicted him. He lived in Lethbridge, where Jane and her husband Don went above and beyond to save him from his despair. They boarded him in their home for periods of time, and at times he left and lived on the street, drinking. He died on his birthday, April 11, 2020.

Scott struggles after bearing witness to her brother’s deterioration, but her family and friends help and support her.

“Some of the people I’ve met are so sad, and Shadow…she knows. She goes over and licks their tears away.” She said that she makes a lot of meaningful connections and that those are worth more than money.

Hilary Sirman, donor relations director for the CSP, described the extent of the organization’s programs.

“In 2021-22, the CSP delivered 445 workshops to over 6,000 participants, logging over 62,000 learning hours. Our website also garnered over 530,000 visits for those seeking resources and information about workshop registrations.”

“(We have) approximately 18 staff members and 12 volunteers, including dedicated volunteer board members. Our workshops team is also supported by approximately 200 contract trainers who facilitate suicide prevention workshops across Canada and internationally,” Sirman said.

Scott and Shadow’s running and meeting people is legitimized by her credentials with the CSP, and donors are eligible for a tax receipt.

Sirman affirmed that “Mental health care needs to be available to people in the right place at the right time. Social supports for vulnerable people need to be present. And we need to renew our value for social cohesion. If you are considering suicide, please know that you are not alone. Hope is possible and help is available. Reach out to trusted family, friends, community, or workplace resources. Talk Suicide, Canada’s national suicide crisis helpline, is available to any one and be reached 24 hours a day at 1-833-456-4566.”

Visit suicideinfo.ca to donate or learn more.

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