Go to content




Most people will attempt suicide in order to escape some intolerable emotional pain caused by a variety of reasons - whether actual or perceived. These attempts are often cries for help. Those who attempt suicide are often in such termoil that they fail to see the other choices available to them. Suicidal people often feel isolated. Because of their private and often hidden anguish, they may feel they have no one to turn to, no one to confide in, which serves only to isolate them further. In the majority of cases, those contemplating suicide would choose a different path if they were not is such dire emotional straits and give others some warning sign in the hope of being saved, because they are intent more on stopping their pain than ending their lives.



Coping with the loss of a loved one...

It is estimated that for every suicide, at least six others - family members, close friends, co-workers - are intimately affected and left to survive this terrible loss. They are also left to struggle with the most difficult, painful, and unanswerable question of all, namely, WHY?

Along with their grief, survivors are often stunned and troubled by the other powerful emotions they are experiencing. These emotions include shock, anger, guilt, relief, fear and depression.

SHOCK is often the immediate reaction to suicide, together with physical and emotional numbness. These are the ways of temporarily screening out the pain so that it can be experienced in smaller, more manageable steps.

ANGER is another part of the grief response, whether it is directed toward the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or oneself.

GUILT manifests itself as self-blame as survivors think back to everything they believe they could have said or done differently, to everything they didn't say or do, and to all of the loose ends left forever untied.

RELIEF may be part of their reaction if the suicide followed either their loved ones long decline into self-destructive behavior, ongoing mental anguish, or prolonged and intense physical pain.

FEAR that it may happen again. The fear that the survivor may take his or her own life.

DEPRESSION may appear as disturbed sleep, fatigue, inability to concentrate, change in appetite, and the feeling that nothing makes life worth living.

Fortunately, these feelings diminish with the passage of time, although some residual feelings remain and some questions remain unanswered.



Maintaining contact with others is particularly important in the stressful months following the suicide of a loved one. Relatives and friends may feel uncomfortable because of the nature of the death and, as a result, be unable, despite their best intentions, to offer you, the survivor, adequate consolation. Take the initiative and talk openly about the suicide and ask them for help. By doing so, you will not only be helping yourself, you will also be helping them. Understand as well that each family member will be grieving in his or her own way.

When you feel ready share with your family and friends your feeling of loss and pain. Understand that each family member may be grieving in his or her own way.

Grieving children experience many of the same feelings - shock, anger, guilt, relief, fear and depression - as adults. Remind them that these emotions are a natural part of the grief process. Remind them as well that they are still loved, by sharing your own similar feelings with them and urging them to share theirs with you.

Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays may be stressful reminders of the suicide. Plan these days to meet the emotional needs of both you and your family.



The following suggestions from "Suicide and Its Aftermath" were submitted by Iris M. Bolton.

1.Know you can survive. You might not think so, but you can.

2.Struggle with "why" it happened until you no longer need to know "why" or until you are satisfied with partial answers.

3.Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings, but all your feelings are normal.

4.Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.

5.Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.

6.Don't be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.

7.Give yourself time to heal.

8.Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another's life.

9.Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.

10.Try to put off major decisions.

11.Give yourself permission to get professional help.

12.Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.

13.Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.

14.Set your own limits and learn to say no.

15.Steer clear of people who want to tell you what and how to feel.

16.Call on your personal faith to help you through.

17.The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.

18.Wear out your questions, anger, guilt and other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting.

19.Know that you will never be the same again. But you can survive and even go beyond surviving.



The following article was written in the Thursday, September 26, 2002 edition of the McGill Reporter by Mark Reynolds.

Gambling with our lives

Mark Reynolds | Behind every video lottery terminal is a team of computer engineers, product analysts, statisticians and psychologists, all of whom worked together to create the perfect vicious machine. It creates the illusion of hope -- hope that winning is possible.

That illusion is designed to suck every penny possible out of anyone who may be feeding the machine in the often-desperate need for their next quarter to hit the jackpot.

The failure of that hope -- usually after the loss of tens of thousands of dollars -- has been directly linked to more than 100 reported suicides in Quebec in the last nine years. In that light, advertising campaigns by the provincial government to gamble "responsibly," or to "keep the game a game" seem not just laughable, but cruel.

Phyllis Vineberg faces that cruelty every day. Not only in her activism to make people aware of the insidious nature of VLTs, but in her personal loss —Vineberg's son Trevor committed suicide seven years ago, after having failed in his struggle to overcome his gambling addiction. By the time he took his life, he had spent $100,000 on VLTs -- and still characterized himself as a small-time gambler.

"I am compelled to speak because our son, and our family, could be any family in Quebec," said Vineberg.

That is an easy contention to deny -- no one wants to believe it could happen to them, or their loved ones. This denial – and the stigma that suicide still carries with it -- is something that Vineberg tries to fight. She freely admits that after her son killed himself, her first reaction was to protect his, and her family's, reputation. Her journey from grieving mother to political activist began with a group that was founded by McGill Social Work professor Estelle Hopmeyer.

Called Family Survivors of Suicide (FSOS), the self-help group is open-ended. Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide can come and meet with others who are dealing with the same loss. Twice a year, FSOS holds an open meeting, where members of the public are invited to a talk.

"The primary goal is to talk about suicide [and] to make this a more open topic," said Hopmeyer of the September 19 event at which Vineberg spoke.

"The other goal, for survivors of suicide was to see Phyllis's journey and her courage -- to see that there is life after a suicide."

Hopemeyer explained that suicide is difficult to deal with for survivors, in part because it is so stigmatized -- grieving family members are often blamed for not seeing that a person was going to take their own life. In the 14 years that Hopmeyer has served as a consultant to FSOS, she estimates a staggering 2000 people have attended the twice-monthly meetings in the School of Social Work.

Quebec has the highest rate of suicide in Canada -- a number that has probably been increased by the ready availability of VLTs. Vineberg pointed out that the machines are in some 4000 sites in the province, including bars, family restaurants, even in the back rooms of some arcades. She believes that the disingenuous nature of the machine -- the "illusion of control" that VLTs afford the user over what is actually a predetermined outcome -- means that her son was not the victim of a compulsion, or even an addiction.

"The truth is, he was an uninformed consumer," she said.

If users of VLTs were told the truth about the machines -- that the chances of getting the jackpot are not controlled by anything the user does, nor affected by the amount of times the game is played -- they could make informed choices. That they don't know that the outcome is set the instant their money is put in the machine, is the result of a moral failure of the provincial government.

"Loto-Québec and the Quebec government have put profits over the sanctity of human life," she said.

Her story touched a nerve with members of the audience, many of whom had struggled with similar problems. One man spoke of how he lost $75,000 he couldn't afford, at the Montreal Casino. His reward?

"They gave me a gold watch from Birks on Christmas, and the next year they gave me a new coat. They said I was a valued customer," he said bitterly.

The government may soon have to pay the price of that moral failure. Vineberg concluded her talk with an exhortation for the assembled -- many of whom had been affected in some way by gambling addictions -- to take action. Maître Roger Garneau, followed with an example of how action might be taken.

Garneau is a lawyer from Quebec City whose firm has launched a $579-million class-action lawsuit against the provincial government and Loto-Québec on behalf of the estimated 119,000 people who have become addicted to VLTs in this province since 1993.

Garneau spoke movingly of his lead client, Jean Brochu, a lawyer with a successful practice and father of two children. Brochu became so hooked on VLTs -- losing $500 a day -- that he would forget to meet with clients, or even eat. Eventually, his compulsion was so great he defrauded his legal association of $50,000.

"He was on the edge of suicide, he had lost his job, he was disbarred and charged with fraud," said Garneau.

Brochu came to Garneau's firm for help. They helped him avoid prosecution and regain his licence to practice law but Brochu wanted to do more.

"He said, 'I would like to help these people, who were like me but have no help,'" related Garneau.

They hope the class-action lawsuit will force the Quebec government to compensate victims for damages, and create a fund for counselling. Garneau said that he expects that the suit will likely be resolved within the year

Family Survivors of Suicide meets at the School of Social Work, 3506 University, rm. 227, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on the second and fourth Thursday of every month from Sept to June. For information on this or other bereavement groups offered at the McGill Centre for Loss and Bereavement please call Estelle Hopmeyer at 398-7067.


As long as we don't deal with the addictive qualities of VLTs, more people will keep suffering. "Only a small fraction of those addicted to VLTs end up in treatment.

For others, the help does not arrive in time.

At least 100 suicides have been blamed by the Quebec coroner's office on compulsive gambling." (Alexander Norris, The Gazette, Tuesday, October 1, 2002)


What Family Survivors Can and Cannot Do:

Support groups such as FSOS are run to provide mutual aid or support in dealing with issues and concerns.

Family Survivors Can...
1.Provide a safe, non-judgemental, and confidential outlet for sharing with others who have gone through similar experiences.

2.Provide understanding and assurance for others in the group that they are not alone

3.Provide evidence that it is possible to feel better about dealing or coping with disabilities, and to develop positive attitudes about the future

4.Provide the opportunity for members to help each other through the sharing of knowledge and experiences

5.Provide ideas and avenues wherein members can begin to regain some control over their lives.

6.Offer resources, speakers, information and literature not readily available outside of the group

7.Provide the opportunity for the information of new support relationships which may excist outside of the group framework.

Family Survivors Can't...

1."Cure" people.

2.Attempt or suggest therapeutic interventions.

3.Diagnose, make psychiatric evaluations or recommend therapies or medications.

4.Attempt tp resolve conflicted or ambivalent emotions or feelings.

5.Address toxic issues.


"FSOS offers emotional support on overcoming the guilt, anger, depression, and fear that follow
in the wake of suicide. It helps survivors to understand the past and lighten the way to a new



Back to content | Back to main menu