Turning anguish of suicide into action

Pam Wright
The Independent

Debb Pitel has taken her anguish and turned it into action.
The Petrolia business owner’s son, Tyler, lost his mental health battle in 2001 and took his own life.
The 15-year-old was one of four LCCVI students who died as a result of suicide that same year.
“For 10 years I did nothing but try to survive,” Pitel says thoughtfully. “I could be that mom who lost a child or (I could) start trying to help others.”
She’s doing just that.
Pitel is spearheading a Polar Dip fundraiser in Petrolia at the community centre Feb. 18. Monies raised will be used to pay for local residents to attend a safeTALK training workshop, where people learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide and help the troubled access the help they need.
When she went to her first safeTALK workshop, Pitel learned new ways of helping people struggling with mental health issues.
Pitel regrets she didn’t learn about it sooner and now she wants to share it as widely as possible.
According to Canadian Mental Health Association statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people, aged 16-24.
It is the leading cause for men between the ages of 40 to 50.
If people have the time to take the three-hour workshop, Pitel will supply the funds so they can do it for free.
She’s hoping Polar Dip will raise $3,500, enough for 35 people to attend the seminar.
Statistics only document the people who have died from suicide, Pitel notes. The number of failed attempts — estimated to be two to three times that number — is not recorded.
“It staggers you,” she adds. “It’s horrific… we have to do better.”
Suicide and its aftermath have a ripple effect, Pitel explains. Safeguarding against it does as well.
“My three boys, husband and friends were also affected, not just me,” Pitel says, adding helping people find their way back from the brink creates health in the community.
“If you tell one person…that’s where the magic happens,” Pitel notes.
“Like any tragedy, this is mine,” she adds. “I want to be proactive…it’s a choice.”
Currently, Pitel is reaching out for the use of a hot tub that can be used as a “cold tub,” at the Polar Dip, or maybe even a dunk tank. She’s hoping the Petrolia community will again come forward.
To donate or take part in the event contact Pitel at Bits and Buckles or call 519-882-4609.