This post has been adapted from the American Psychiatric Associations 2018 post on suicide
With a heavy heart I write this post today as my thoughts are with the family of the Ottawa
Police officer who passed away on September 27th by suicide. I am also aware of the many others
who provide essential services to the general public who struggle on a daily basis with their inner
darkness which is far too often a result of their service in the role of a first responder. The
women and men who enter the serving fields often do so with the intent of helping others but far
too often their well-being is overlooked and misunderstood as it is the nature of a helper to put
their own wellness behind that of those they serve. It is important that we continue to educate
and provide support to not only first responders but all individuals, especially those who work
within the helping professions. As such, I ask that you take a few moments to read this post
which will provide a brief education regarding the warning signs that may signify the potential
for harm to self and protective factors that can be acted upon when concern has been identified.
Suicide is linked to mental disorders, particularly depression and substance use disorders. There
are many factors that can increase the risk of suicide, such as relationship failures or struggles,
financial stress, chronic pain, a history of trauma or abuse, substance use or abuse, and exposure
to friends or family with suicidal behavior. However, the biggest risk factor is a previous suicide
Knowing the factors that can increase risk are important, but only part of the process of suicide
prevention. Picking up on the warning signs can also make a huge impact, and potentially save
the life of a friend or loved one. If someone you know has recently started talking, writing or
fixating on death, dying or suicide, that is a definite sign that they could need some help. Another
concern can be the expression of having no reason for living, feeling trapped or being a burden to
others. Further, a belief that there is no sense of purpose in life or an inability to see that there is
hope for the future. Other warning signs include; increased use of alcohol or substances, a
sudden withdrawal from friends and/or loved ones, increase in reckless behaviors, and dramatic
changes of mood.
Equipping ourselves with preventative tools and resources can help not only ourselves, but our
friends, peers, coworkers and loved ones. Suicide prevention hotlines are available 24/7 for those
who need immediate help. Emergency departments also have staff on duty to assist those in
danger of harming themselves. Professional services are accessible in most areas- to find a
therapist near you, visit psychologytoday.com and search your city. If reaching out and finding
help from an outside source seems like too big of a task, confide in a friend, family member,
teacher, coach, acquaintance, anyone who will listen and who can help you problem solve and
get the help that is needed.
Mental Health Crisis Line – 1+ (866) 996-0991
Ottawa Crisis Team– 1+ (613) 722-6914
You’ve probably heard the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) before, but what exactly does it mean? SAD is a form of clinical depression with an onset that typically occurs within the winter months. It is said that the lack of sunlight typically seen in the colder months leads to depressive episodes. According to an article by Darren Cotterell, MBBCH, MSc, MRCPsych, SAD is generally believed to affect women more than men and the age of onset is usually between 20-30 years. 
Symptoms of SAD, much like depression, can include:
Emphasis on a healthy lifestyle.
While it is important to take care of your body by exercising and eating healthy year round, if you suffer from SAD try to put in an extra effort to maintain your diet during the winter months. Combating the feelings of depression with nutrient rich foods to provide your body the energy it needs is extremely beneficial.
Don’t shut yourself in.
It can often be difficult to find time in the short winter days to get outside- especially if you work traditional office hours, try to make a goal to go for a short walk on your lunch break. On days off, make sure you get out of the house at least once a day for a walk, coffee, or physical activity.
Surround yourself with loved ones.
Depression is an illness that can often lead to withdrawing from friends and family. If you begin to feel the symptoms coming on, reach out to your loved ones and speak with them about what is happening. Make it a priority to spend quality time with your loved one and allow them to help you through your rough time.
Seek professional help.
If you feel as though you are unable to combat your symptoms of SAD on your own, seeking the help of a mental health professional is highly recommended. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and/or light therapy are often recommended for individuals with SAD. CBT helps patients identify and incorporate enjoyable activities into their life, and explore and change negative thoughts and emotions associated with winter. In a 2016 Psych Central article by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. it is noted that light therapy and CBT are both effective ways to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder; however, CBT for SAD may be more effective than light therapy. A one-year follow up showed that participants treated with CBT were doing much better than individuals who were treated with light therapy alone. 
 Cotterell , Darren MBBCH, MSc, MRCPsych
Pathogenesis and Management of Seasonal Affective Disorder
 American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association- Seasonal Affective Disorder
 Tartakovsky, Margarita M.S.
Are You SAD This Winter? Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida