Believe in Hope
Meet Tana Nash, Meet Tana Nash: Executive Director of the Waterloo Regional Suicide Prevention Council
Tana Nash has experienced the loss of a family member through suicide firsthand. The death of her grandmother in 1987 was her first experience with grieving after such a loss, but it was the death of her sister, Erin, in 2006 that changed the course of her career. As Erin’s advocate and caregiver, Tana uniquely experienced the ups and down of those who struggle with mental illness and those experiences and gave her a passion for the work she does now. “I can’t bring my sister back,” she says “But I can bring hope to others in her memory.”
As Executive Director of the Waterloo Regional Suicide Prevention Council (WRSPC), Tana uses her Marketing and Communications background to open the dialogue around suicide and advocate for better access to services and an end to the stigma surrounding suicide.
In 2013 more than 500 residents were hospitalized in Waterloo Wellington for self harm and other suicidal behaviours. That statistic is sobering but Tana believes that prevention and intervention programs can play a vital role in significantly reducing this number.
When asked why she loves her job, Tana simply responded “Because I believe in hope.”
She recalls a story of an 84 year old Australian man who lived near a cliff. Every morning he would look out the window for anyone standing alone too close to the edge. If he saw someone who looked like they might be contemplating a jump, he would walk over and simply say hello and invite them in to his home for tea. Sometimes, they would join him.
It is said that this man has saved more than one hundred people by offering them only an ear to listen.
Stories such as these illustrate that small efforts can make a big impact. They also inspire the WRSPC to continue to develop innovative alternatives to traditional suicide prevention initiatives. While suicide affects people from all age groups, the WRSPC does particularly great work with youth and on increasing education for key professions such as primary care providers and social workers.
In the coming year, the council is hoping to work with employers to provide education, risk assessment tools and supports that help men manage one of their biggest risk factors – stress and anxiety – and promote overall health and well-being.
The WRSPC’s extensive work with youth includes partnering with schools, sports teams, faith groups and physicians to provide training and resources to identify youth who may be struggling and get them the supports they needs. They also work to give youth the tools to develop resiliency towards change and manage struggles and inevitable hard times. Tana acknowledges that life can be like a rollercoaster. Resiliency training provides youth with a “seatbelt”; tools to help keep them safe and grounded throughout life’s ups and downs.
In addition to prevention and intervention programs, the WRSPC also offers a wide variety of supports for grieving families. In June of 2014 the Waterloo Wellington LHIN provided funding to the WRSPC that allowed for additional group sessions to be held that support those struggling with their grief. WRSPC will be partnering with other agencies to train additional facilitators for these groups building more capacity for the service in the LHIN and providing more flexibly in scheduling for residents participating in the groups.
285 Benjamin Rd
Waterloo ON N2J 3Z4
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