EDMONTON, Alberta — A new campaign in Canada aims to reach those who are vulnerable to self-harm or suicide by telling the stories of people who have learned to live despite pain and suffering.
“I need to fight to deal with the pain. But I know that my life has meaning,” said Lisa Daniels in a video from the Canada-based Every Life Matters campaign. Daniels, who lives in the city of St. Alberta in Alberta province, suffers from several painful conditions and injuries.
Daniels challenged viewers to make and share a video with others to show how they “commit life.” She asked them to tag friends on social media to tell them how they personally have helped.
This will help remind them that their lives matter, she said. “Maybe your encouragement will help someone ‘commit life,’ not suicide.”
The Canadian government is preparing to legalize assisted suicide following a 2015 Supreme Court decision.
Daniels recounted in her video how she and her husband had decided to adopt their daughter, Faith, after struggling with infertility. After the adoption, she then developed “horrible debilitating back pain,” diagnosed as arthritis of the spine and fibromyalgia.
“I didn’t want to get out of bed, the pain was so, so bad,” she said.
Daniels then got in a car accident and flipped her car. She woke up in the hospital in tremendous pain. Her left hand was paralyzed.
“I am meant to be Faith’s mom. I am happy. I’m happy every day,” she said. “If I can find hope and meaning in my circumstances, surely others who are struggling to keep going can as well.”
“Why don’t we reach out to them and show them how to commit life?” she asked.
Daniels’ video is available through the Every Life Matters campaign, based at the website www.commitlife.com.
“#CommitLife means that you face adversity with hopefulness, joy and a healthy amount of optimism,” Daniels said.
The campaign’s producers include Brian Holdsworth, creative director at Holds Worth Design, which was hired to produce the campaign by the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
“The campaign was launched as a direct response to Canada’s embrace of euthanasia and assisted suicide as a solution to suffering,” Holdsworth told CNA. “The Supreme Court struck down laws that protected the vulnerable from this reality so now, we’re doing our best to promote a message that encourages hope, human dignity and value, and courage in the face of adversity.”
The campaign has been active for about two months. Holdsworth said organizers are happy with its achievements so far, given its small budget.
Holdsworth said the Archdiocese of Edmonton “wanted a way to respond to what was happening in our country and asked my company how to best approach the subject and this is what we proposed.”
“We are hoping that other people who experience suffering can be encouraged by that kind of witness and make whatever decisions they can to find help and authentic hope,” he said.
Organizers felt compelled to create the campaign “as an act of mercy towards those who are now at risk of being persuaded to end their lives,” he said. Canada’s culture has set a precedent that says suicide is “an acceptable solution.”
Holdsworth encouraged people to make themselves available for someone who is “struggling to find hope.”
“Visit them, invest in their lives, invest in your relationship with them. I think this is especially true for those who are isolated, sick, and elderly,” he said.
“These groups are, surprisingly, not described very often when the media talks about suicide. We hear about stories of young people because it’s such a tragedy, but never the widow who died alone. The elderly are the most at risk and I believe that’s because so many of them are so tragically lonely.”
The campaign refers people in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available in the U.S. and Canada. The hotline is available through the website suicidepreventionlifeline.org or by phone at 1-800-273-TALKFREE (8255).