When TSN "Off the Record" host Michael Landsberg wrote an online column last week on mental illness and suicide after the death of good friend Wade Belak, he received more viewer feedback in a few days than he normally gets in an entire year. Hundreds upon hundreds of people responded with their own stories of suffering and loss and thanked him for bringing the subject of suicide out into the open.

Every day in this country, 250 Canadians will attempt suicide. Ten will succeed. It kills more people in Canada every year than car crashes and murders combined. Now imagine how many lives might be saved if we devoted the same resources to suicide prevention that we do to traffic safety and crime. We can only imagine, because in the real world suicide gets only a fraction of the funding and even less attention. Many countries like England and the United States have national suicide prevention strategies. Canada does not. Those who suffer do so mostly in silence, as do the loved ones they leave behind.

It's time for that to change.

During the week of October 3rd, Canada AM will be devoting special attention to the issue of suicide with a series of stories, leading up to a special edition Town Hall on Thursday October 6. We will talk to a wide array of people who have been directly affected by suicide. Some people -- like Landsberg himself -- you will know very well; some you will meet for the first time. We will tell their stories and introduce you to some of the people who are working hard to do something about it.

You will hear stories of heartbreak told from the perspective of people who have dedicated themselves to saving the lives of others, including:

  • Military family members who saw a loved one off to Afghanistan to put his life on the line, only to lose him to suicide after he came home
  • A hockey player who, like Wade Belak, once played the role of NHL "enforcer" and was almost driven to suicide
  • A mother who lost her teenaged daughter who wants to share with others what she has learned
  • Leading experts on mental health who will talk about what we know about suicide and what needs to be done to save more lives

In the online component of the series, on canadaam.ctv.ca, we'll be exploring all week how suicide affects youth, those in the military, and those involved in sport. And we'll be hosting a web chat following the Oct. 6 town hall, to allow viewers to continue the conversation on a more personal level with members of the panel.

Our goal is to break the silence, to speak out, and to offer hope.

For those of you whose lives have been changed by suicide, we invite you to participate in this process. If you live in the GTA and would like to be a part of our studio audience, or have a story you want to share, or wish to be part of a photo shoot dedicated to survivors, or have questions you would like to pose to our guests, email us at AMmentalhealth@bellmedia.ca or email me directly at sean.omalley@bellmedia.ca.

For those of you who want to share your stories but do not want to do so publicly, confidentiality is guaranteed and anonymous contributions are welcome.