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Suicide prevention: Keep writing your story, says woman who lost friend to suicide

Jordan Caine never would have left his bass guitar and amp in storage.

The bass player for the heavy metal band Laval, whose other passions included growing hot peppers and smoking meat, got stuck in a low spot of his manic depression and died by suicide Aug. 13, 2014.

When his friend Andrea Milne found his guitar and other mementos in her basement, where he would jam with her boyfriend, she had no idea how long Caine’s treasured things had been tucked away. She’d seen him a few days earlier and he acted as if nothing was wrong. She later learned he had quit working and playing baseball, and put down his guitar — all signs of suicidal thoughts.

Sadly, the 27-year-old from Tecumseh, who friends called Cainer, decided to write the of end his story before seeing where his life’s journey could take him, Milne said.

“Your story isn’t over,” Milne said the day after the fourth anniversary of Caine’s death. “You can’t write the end of the book until you’ve lived through all the chapters. You’ve got to keep writing. You’ve got to keep living … And just know that you’re not alone.”

Milne and Caine had been friends for about five years. They had talked about her struggle with anxiety and his with bipolar disorder, a condition that often tempts those who have it to stop taking medication while they’re in the manic stage and feeling better.

There also are hurdles to access local mental health services, and Caine had gone to the emergency department several times but was not admitted, she said.

When she heard about his death, “I can just remember collapsing in the middle of the grocery store,” she said.

Her advice? Keep listening, and check up on friends and family who have mental health issues.

“Take that extra step. Don’t just say ‘I’m here.’ Give them a call. Give them a text.” Milne said. “Don’t just say ‘I’m here’ and leave the door open because often their negative conversation in their mind is telling them: ‘They’re just saying that just to feel sorry for me.’”

Caine’s friends and family are continuing to write his story by remembering him each year at a two-day rock music event called Cainerfest (Sept. 7-8 this year) that raises awareness and money for local suicide prevention and bereavement programs.

It is just one of the events during suicide prevention month in September.

On Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, there will be a special screening of Suicide: The Ripple Effect. The documentary focuses on Kevin Hines who, at age 19, attempted to take his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. As he fell he realized he wanted to live and miraculously survived. Hines, who has manic depression, talks about his experience, uses the social media hashtag BeHereTomorrow and the film to try to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts around the world.

More than 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year — a number that only includes deaths that are reported as suicides.

In Windsor-Essex, 42 people died by suicide in 2011, the latest health unit statistic. A 2016 Windsor-Essex County Health Unit report said the rate of emergency department visits for intentional self-harm increased by 28 per cent between 2011 and 2015. The greatest increase was 143 per cent for youth ages 10 to 19, or 2.4 times greater in 2015 than in 2010.

Jenny-Lee Almeida, the mental health educator at the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor-Essex County, said everyone is affected by mental health. Either you or someone you know has dealt with a mental health issue.

“The other statistic I always say is suicide is 100 per cent preventable,” Almeida said. “And when we know how to help someone and when we actually ask the question ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ we’re saving a life.”

It’s not unusual for someone to have thoughts of suicide, Almeida said. People often want to end the pain, not their life, and she encourages them to “hold on, pain ends,” an acronym for HOPE. Talk to someone, she advises, since people start to heal when they feel heard.

Sharon Hill
Windsor Star