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Sufi Musician Utilizing Her Personal Experiences To Spread Suicide Prevention Awareness

Whatever may have led a person to that part of their life, suicide is massively impactful—a tragic end to someone’s story.

Nearly half of Canadians will have faced some level of mental health challenges when they turn forty, and of those, younger people are most likely to have a mental health condition. Looking at suicide and self-harm, approximately 12 people die by suicide each day, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults.

These experiences hit incredibly close to home for Sufi musician and acousmatic composer Shumaila Hemani, who, during her post-secondary education, experienced suicidal thoughts and mental health challenges. Something she still struggles with to this day.

“I was once an international student and studied at the University of Alberta. I recall when my funding was ending and having to pay such a huge tuition amount, especially near the end of the program when I was writing my dissertation, and it was a traumatic phase of my life. Sometimes it feels like I’m still in there. I think it was around that time I started experiencing dark spots myself. I’ve been struggling with suicide for about seven years but haven’t made any attempts, making me an interesting statistic.”

Hemani has heard many stories of other international students who struggled during the pandemic, and even now, some have attempted or are struggling with ideas of suicide.

According to Statistics Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased those rates. Before the pandemic, in 2019, 2.7 per cent of adults in Canada reported suicidal ideation. During the pandemic, 2.4 per cent of adults reported suicidal ideation in fall 2020, which rose significantly in spring 2021 to 4.2 per cent. There were many pandemic-related impacts, and the more a person experienced, the reports of suicidal ideation rose drastically, nearly 25 times higher in those who experienced six or more impacts.

Reports of suicidal ideation were:

  • Eight times more likely among those who experienced feelings of loneliness or isolation compared to those who did not
  • Seven times more likely among those who experienced feelings of emotional distress compared to those who did not
  • Four times more likely among those who experienced issues with their physical health compared to those who did not
  • Three times more likely among those who experienced challenges in their personal relationships compared to those who did not
  • Three times more likely among those who experienced difficulties meeting their financial obligations compared to those who did not
  • Two times more likely among those who experienced the loss of their job or income compared to those who did not
  • 1.5 times more likely among those who experienced the death of family, friends, or colleagues compared to those who did not

Hearing that others are experiencing what she has gone through has made Hemani internally and emotionally connected to the cause.

“I’ve been supportive of friends who have made failed attempts on their lives, sunk into depression even further. I remember being supportive and saying that life has surprises. When we’re in that phase of experiencing dark spots, we sometimes think we’ve figured life out and that it’s not going to change. You’re struggling and trying so hard for no reason. You’re just a puppet in this grand story.”

It isn’t the end, and things can change. There’s a sense of nihilism when you’re in those moments, says Hemani, and she found a change of perspective for herself. Talking to someone, such as a counsellor, can help. Life will always have its ups and downs; even once you find yourself in a good place, those dark spots can always return. It’s something you’ll have to manage your entire life.

Recently, she was in a competition for the We Can Survive Concert, an event which works to increase suicide awareness and provide resources and connections for those facing the challenges of depression and mental health.

Help is available 24/7 for suicide prevention and mental health. Here are some resources:

  • Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 (or text 45645 from 4 pm to midnight ET)
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868
  • Hope for Wellness Helpline for Indigenous peoples: 1-855-242-3310
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366
  • For Quebec residents: 1-866-APPELLE (277-3553)
  • Wellness Together Canada
  • Preventing suicide: Warning signs and how to help

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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