Monthly Archives: April 2018

Do Not Dismiss A Suicide Threat As A Cry For Attention, Speaker Says

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – While warning signs of suicide do not automatically mean it will be attempted, they should be responded to in “serious and thoughtful manner,” said Laura Hotham, a Niagara College psychology professor.
Grad pic (3)Hotham spoke April 21 in a public session focusing on suicide and youth. Her presentation was aimed at parents and family members, school staff, coaches and youth leaders.
Why talk about suicide? The need is great for this pressing social issue to be on the frontburner of social concern. Canadian suicide rates are the highest they have been in Canadian history and suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canadian youth, Hotham said. According to a news report, 22% per cent of Canadian teens considered suicide in a recent year. Other statistics indicate rates of suicide are highest for people in the 15 to 24 and 25 to 34 age demographics. Females attempt suicide more than males, and suicide does not discriminate by age, race, gender or income group.
There are specific warning signs that always need to be heeded, said Hotham, who has a masters degree in Counselling Psychology. These include: talking about death and dying, change in personality and change in behaviour, among others.
Any mention of dying, disappearing, or self-harm is never to be taken lightly, she cautioned.
Changes in one’s personality can be considered red flags as well. These include: sadness, becoming withdrawn, irritable and anxious, and indecisiveness and apathy.
“Do not dismiss a threat as a cry for attention,” she said.
Many are the factors that increase risk of suicide.
Mental illness (for example depression and anxiety), is one. Others include: drinking alcohol and doing drugs, family history of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, stressful events in life (for example divorce or loss of a family member), easy access to lethal means and one now being seen more often, the struggle with gender identification.
Hotham, who has “years of experience working with people in crisis and counselling youth and young adults”, took time in the presentation to try and dispel common myths about suicide.
Some of these myths are: suicidal people really want to die so there is no way to stop them; people who talk about suicide are doing it for attention; all individuals who are suicidal are depressed; talking about suicide will cause an individual to attempt suicide; and, improvement following a suicide crisis means the risk of suicide is over.
But building resilience and self-esteem can help decrease risk of suicide, she said.
This can be done by creating a safe and loving environment in the home; remembering and demonstrating that failure is part of life; constant reinforcement about love being unconditional; helping a child express his or her feelings; and teaching children to be critical of media, especially social media.
Good, positive self-esteem cannot be underestimated as a protective factor, she said. Seeing hope in the future, not fixating on day-to-day emotions and involvement in positive activities outside of regular school hours, such as volunteerism and sports are examples of others.
How to talk to youth thinking about suicide was discussed. For example, it is important to ask questions in order to get a better understanding about how a child is feeling. There is need to be patient and to use open ended and direct questions to encourage them to talk.
“Pay attention to their body language; even if they say they are fine, they may show their true thoughts and feelings through their gestures and facial expressions,” Hotham said.
“Be non-judgmental and compassionate… remember their perspective and validate their feelings…..identify the positives and remind them they have reason to live….”
Based on questions she was asked and conversations with attendees afterward, Hotham said the audience was a mix of people who work with youth in the community, and parents and grandparents.
One of the questions sought her opinion about why the number of suicides has increased in Canada over the past few decades. She shared a response in email correspondence with me.
“All the research I have read states different hypothesis’ but there is nothing that can definitively account for it,” she wrote. “For example, social media is believed to be a factor, not just how it allows cyberbullying, which can lead to suicide, but social media has been shown to play a role in depression and anxiety in young people and I’ve personally seen this with clients and students. It can be depressing for some, to look at what they perceive as others’ “perfect” lives, when they feel down about their own life. I have to remind these young people that no one has a perfect life, but people don’t (often) post their problems on Facebook, they only post their best pictures and greatest moments. It gives people a warped perception of reality.”
She also shared another perspective in her correspondence.
“I think the other problem is that the more people do it, the more people see it as a good option. Some people believe that we are just hearing more about it because we now have access to information, via the internet, about what happens around the world. I disagree with this theory because the actual statistics from Health Canada, which state causes of death, show that there has been an increase. This isn’t just the public’s perception due to access to information. “When I was in high school from 1989-1993, I didn’t even really know about suicide. No one I knew had ever suicided. It wasn’t until years later, that someone I went to high school with did. Kids can’t say that today. Most students I teach state that they know someone from high school that suicided, some know several. It has become a real problem, and that is why I really think more prevention and awareness needs to take place.
Hotham is the co-author of a textbook, LifeSmart (Developmental Psychology)
and a former Advanced Care Paramedic in Niagara region. She received an invitation to speak from the John Howard Society and this report is based on her Power Point presentation at Welland Public Library’s Seaway Mall branch that evening.

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Time To Change The Channel, Welland

city logoWELLAND  – The City of Welland has launched Your Channel as an initiative to improve communication and public engagement. Your Channel is an online interactive communication tool for information sharing, and also opens doorways of discussion and engagement that will help guide council’s decision making. Embarking on new engagement strategies, and opening better lines of communication is a demonstration of the city’s commitment to improve community discussion, explore ideas, and bring the public’s voice to city projects.

The city’s new public engagement platform will also assist staff with community improvement projects and help prepare reports for council’s consideration that better reflect community input. Your Channel has the ability to inform and engage the public with city projects through discussion forums, surveys, quick polls, a guest book, and a questions and answers section.

Communications and public engagement are strategic priorities for council and Your Channel supports our commitment to providing open, transparent, and accountable government,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “As a smart city, we’re embracing digital technology that allows us to connect and collaborate with the community on the current and future direction of the city.”

“In this digital world, people have become more empowered and engaged, they consume information differently, and they want digital options to be able to connect with and influence the community issues and decisions important to them,” said Gary Long, CAO. “Your Channel changes how we communicate and interact with residents and allows us to be more responsive.”

Participating in Your Channel is a quick simple process of signing up with the platform and engaging in featured topics. Visit welland.ca to participate, engage, and have your say.

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Eyesore, And More

What’s to be done with these pilings at the site of the former railway swing bridge? Not only are they an eyesore, but also a blight on the beautiful recreational waterway and an accident waiting to happen. With the city’s new Waterway Advisory Committee in place, maybe it’s something that can be put on its agenda for discussion, community consultation and hopefully some kind of action. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

THE WEEK AHEAD: Meetings In Welland

Meeting Calendar
Meetings are open to the public unless otherwise noted. Information is obtained from the applicable agency, board, committee, or commission and downloaded to this calendar as it becomes available. Information is subject to change. Please check back often for the most up-to-date information, including cancellations.

May
1
Council Meeting, in Open Session ≫
7:00 PM Tuesday May. 1 2018 –
Council Chambers

2
City of Welland Heritage Advisory Committee Meeting ≫
5:00 PM Wednesday May. 2 2018 –
Room 108, Civic Square, 60 East Main Street

3
Welland Community Wellness Complex Advisory Committee Meeting ≫
3:00 PM Thursday May. 3 2018 –
Welland Community Wellness Complex, 145 Lincoln Street

Heritage Lives: Let’s Play Ball!

DSC_0556By Terry Hughes

When my grandson informed us that he would be playing ball at Burgar Park, it brought back some memories about being present for a variety of activities there as well as its storied history as a local sports icon. Not only did it host baseball games but, also, the historic band tattoos when the city hosted its one hundredth birthday in 1958. A football tradition was the annual Thanksgiving Day game between Notre Dame and Welland High that in a number of cases turned out to be a “mud bowl”. For me, my connection with the park was the removal of the barbwire from around the perimeter of the park when employed by the city parks board in the early sixties.
It is hard to believe that this location goes back more than a century as a place where baseball was played. In the early 1900’s, Sundays were considered as a day of rest and religious reflection. Even the canal closed down to shipping and many ships sought dockage at communities along the waterway. This reverence included the playing of games including baseball that was beginning to catch on with  local youth.
Ashers Bush was a vacant piece of land that was bounded by the C.N.R. tracks on the east, Hellems Avenue on the west and Asher and Lincoln streets on the north and south. It was covered with trees and contained several open meadows. During the winter the locals would use it for skating around the vegetation much like the park Joe Barkovich refers to on Woodlawn Road during his winter outings.
When the warm weather returned and the clearings dried out, it became the location for illegal ball games on Sundays. Instead of attending Mass or Sunday School, the boys would head to this secret playing field, hidden by the underbrush and blocking the voices and cheers of the participants. Four teams would emerge known as the Dirty Shirts, Windy Days, Never Sweats and Forget-me-nots. As time went on the popularity of the games came to the attention of the participants’ parents causing this ritual to disappear.
Welland and Crowland had become the centre for industrial development during the early nineteen hundreds, properties along the transportation routes were in high demand. Canada Forge located on the property opposite Ashers Bush that became the area known as “French Town.” The bush was purchased by a Buffalonian by the name of T.D. Moore. Hoping to cash in on a profitable real estate deal, Mr. Moore missed the boat and finally, in 1924 gave permission to the Welland Amateur Athletic Association to build a baseball diamond there. The rest of the story is history.
With the large number of workers who had returned from the war and were employed at local plants, it was not long before an industrial league emerged drawing huge crowds to the park. Teams such as the Wurbagool Juniors, Welland Combines and Bluebirds brought honours to the city. Names such as Swayze, Blazetich, Billyard, Buntrock, Patakfalvi, Mateka, Roschuk and many others entertained the fans occupying the bleachers. After the game a brief walk over to Ideal Fish and Chips to get a cone of fries completed the evening.
The accompanying photo, above, courtesy of Welland Library, depicts some kind of national holiday, probably Dominion Day, being celebrated due to the presence of many Union Jacks and the white attire being worn by the ladies.

Next Column: Hanging Out at the Cross Street Pool

(DSC_0653 (3)Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

Museum To Hold AGM, Re-open Galleries

museum

WELLAND – The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the members of Welland Historical Museum (“Musee de Welland Museum”) will be held at the Welland Museum Community Room (140 King St.), May 23 at 7pm.
The AGM is held:
1. To receive the financial statements and Annual Report of the Corporation for the financial year ended December 31, 2017.
2. To elect executive and directors to the Board of Directors.
3. To appoint the auditors of the Corporation for the ensuing year.
4. To transact such other business as may properly be brought before the meeting.
If you are attending, you must RSVP by no later than 2 pm Tuesday, May 22, to info@wellandmuseum.ca. In order to vote you must be a member in good standing. Please arrive early to renew your membership, if needed. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may send your vote by proxy on your behalf. Notifications of proxy must be received prior to the meeting.
The AGM will be proceeded by the GRAND RE-OPENING of the Lower Galleries (Canal, Industry/Business, and Metis) at 5:30pm. Light refreshments will be served.
(Source: Welland Museum news release)