A silent scourge

As Sawler walked up to them one said, “’Bob, we have some bad news for you. Pat took his life today.’”

“I just went to pieces,” says Sawler. “I just had such great feelings for him and his family.

Patrick Convey, 25, died earlier that morning.

Carol Cashen (Brittney Teasdale photo)

His tragic story is one that’s all too familiar to many, though it’s rarely talked about. Obituaries never make mention of it, often referring to suicide as simply, “a tragic death.” Patrick’s just said he passed away.

When suicides happen, their impact on families and communities is profound. According to a 2009 report released by the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection, an average of 650 people were hospitalized for attempted suicides every year between 1995 and 2004, and about 90 succeed in taking their lives. Attempted suicides were the second largest cause of “injury-related hospitalizations” the report said. At nine deaths per 100,000 people in 2004, Nova Scotia had the third lowest rate for completed suicides among the provinces. The national average was 11 per 100,000.

“Unlike anything you’ve ever felt.”

Carol Cashen is all too familiar with suicide, and the societal pressure to keep quiet about it. Her son Adam took his life four years ago.

“Some people were telling me not to talk about it,” says Cashen. “But I did, Right from the very beginning.”

Adam struggled for months with tough emotions and alcohol, but his death came as a shock to everyone.

Carol was crushed and couldn’t work for eight months. But she found support in friends and family, and strength in getting out and talking about her son’s death.

She turned to Survivors of Suicide, a group that meets every month at a church in the city’s south end.

“When you walk in the doors and sometimes there’s up to 30 in a group, then you realize you’re not the only one going through this,” she says.

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