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Pay it forward this holiday season

It’s officially December, which I would say is the most wonderful time of year, but that’s not the case for everyone.

It’s officially December, which I would say is the most wonderful time of year, but that’s not the case for everyone.

With a drop in oil prices causing thousands of layoffs across the province over the last two years, many Albertans can’t afford the kind of Christmas they used to have.

And because of Alberta’s poor economy, the province’s suicide rate skyrocketed 30 per cent in 2015, and mental health officials are expecting to see an even higher increase this year.

Just to put things into perspective, according to Mara Grunau, executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, statistics show for every one per cent increase in unemployment there is a corresponding 0.79 per cent increase in the suicide rate.

Alberta Health Services officials say the suicide rate is higher than most Canadian provinces, more Albertans die by suicide every year than in fatal motor vehicle collisions and three out of four people who die by suicide are men.

Just think about it. It would be easy to slip into a depression if you were laid off and struggling to pay the bills or put food on the table. For some families, purchasing Christmas gifts for each other or participating in annual Christmas traditions is out of the question this year.

Maybe some of us who have had a better year could share a little of our fortune – there are so many wonderful organizations that provide for less fortunate people at Christmas time.

Food bank usage across the province has increased substantially over the last two years and Lori McRitchie, executive director of the Airdrie Food Bank (AFB), said many people who have been using the food bank used to donate to the food bank.

People who are contemplating suicide don’t necessarily want to die. They are in pain and want the pain to end, but have exhausted their resources and don’t know where else to turn. That’s why it’s important for others to reach out to people who may be struggling.

Pay it forward this holiday season. It’s the little things that can make a big difference in someone’s day. Hold the door open for someone, shovel someone’s sidewalk or pay for the person’s coffee behind you in the Tim Hortons line. Every small random act of kindness can go a long way.

It seems many people who haven’t experienced losing someone to suicide don’t really get involved with suicide awareness or prevention events or programs. But it’s important for people to come together and show support for people who might be suffering from depression so they don’t feel so alienated.

I have lost four people in my life to suicide – my brother, my uncle, a colleague and a friend – and there is nothing worse than feeling like you could have done something to help.

So please, be kind this Christmas, because you never know what people are going through.