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Saturday event helps survivors of suicide navigate the darkness

'It’s about hope, it’s about letting people feel hope and letting them know they can find hope,' said event organizer
bernadette and commish closeup bench
Bernadette Copeland and OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique are pictured at an unveiling of a commemmorative bench during a ceremony at OPP General Headquarters last year as part of International Suicide Day. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters File Photo

The Simcoe County Suicide Awareness Council is set to take part in the annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event this Saturday. For the first time, it will be a virtual event.

Bernadette Copeland, event coordinator and chair of the council, says suicide is an issue that hits close to home in our community. 

“In Canada, there are about 4,000 suicide deaths a year, and we have about 15 people who come to our survivors program every year,” she said.

Copeland says the International Survivor and Suicide Loss Day event provides an opportunity for people who are struggling with a suicide loss to gather together, albeit virtually this year due to the pandemic.

“It’s about hope, it’s about letting people feel hope and letting them know they can find hope,” she said.

“There is such a stigma around mental health and suicide. There is a lot of blame and a lot of guilt that goes along with that, and I think people need to work through that.”

Copeland says that for those grieving a loss from suicide, being with other people who share a similar experience in a group setting can be helpful.

“It’s really helpful to be around someone who understands that kind of a loss and that kind of grief, which is a very different type of grief," she said.

Copeland is able to relate and speak from experience when it comes to suicide loss. She lost her sister to suicide in 1981, and her best friend in 2009.

“After my sister died it was really difficult for me. I felt a lot of blame, shame, and the stigma that is out there, I felt it. I struggled to talk to people about it,” Copeland reflected.

Through her experiences, Copeland found that peer support from people who come from similar experiences was the best healing tool.

“This is something that feeds my soul. I really believe in peer support and that’s why we have a survivors program, which has been running for almost 30 years here in Orillia,” she said.

Typically, the Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event is held in person, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and much like the survivor's program, this year’s event will be held using a virtual platform.

“When we were faced with the pandemic last March we didn’t know what we were going to do,” Copeland admits.

“We have all these people who need this support, so we decided to go virtual which has worked out quite well.”

The event this Saturday will be held on Zoom and the public is free to join by logging onto Log in time is 12:45 p.m. and the event, which features a video and discussion, will begin at 1 p.m.

“People will have the opportunity to talk about their issues and their loss, to find comfort in knowing that there is hope. You can still find joy in your life,” Copeland said.

People who want to get involved or need support can get in touch with Copeland by calling 705-326-9941, or by email at

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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