Support, comfort offered in suicide, depression conference

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For third year, conference attracts huge crowd

The conference room at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites was virtually full on Saturday, Sept. 8 for a third annual conference on suicide and depression.

Entitled The Conversation Has to Happen… Again, the event featured several speakers, including local residents Peter Premachuk, who lost a brother to suicide as well as Olds and District Hospice Society vice-president Kathy Kemmere, who spoke about grief.

Many speakers dwelt on the emotional pain of suicide and depression, but attendees were also given some hope that it is possible to overcome depression and to some degree, to move beyond the grief of losing a loved one.

In September 2000, Kevin Hines tried to kill himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Not only did he survive, but after a long journey of healing physically and mentally, he now speaks about his experience to persuade others suffering depression not to take their own lives and to get help.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not lucky to be alive. I am lucky I get to exist.  I get to be here because it is a privilege,” he said.

“I owe a sense of gratitude today that is like none other. I am grateful to the 10th degree for every place I get to go, every thing I get to do.”

In her talk, Kemmere compared the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one to a spider web.

“It’s an intricate pattern of woven threads that make up each web,” Kemmere said.

“Now imagine snipping a piece of that web out. What does it do? It totally shifts and changes the shape of that web and it’s left dangling and incomplete.

“I think that’s what grief is to us when we lose our loved ones. We have lost a piece of what made us whole and we’re left dangling and in a new shape.

“And I think the most important (thing) about the dangling is that this new shape is who we are now, and it’s inclusive of the loss that we endured.

“We’re never the same, after we’ve lost someone we loved.”

Premachuk said family members were “screaming inside” from the pain of his brother’s death.

He said the pain of a loved one’s suicide profoundly affects survivors for a long, long time, but he did offer some hope to those in the room, saying eventually it is possible to move on.

“It seems possible — with love and support — to move forward. You have to go through a great deal of hard times and tears. You never move on until the impact is gone. You don’t move on beyond the (fact that) the person has died,” he said.

However, he added, “it’s possible to live with a great deal of pain and to manage it.”

Watch for more coverage of this conference in a later edition of the Albertan.

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Doug Collie

Doug Collie joined the Olds Albertan in 2014 as editor. He covers municipal politics, news, community events, arts and entertainment and sports happening in and around Bowden and Olds.