What to do When You or Someone You Love is Suicidal

Here’s something many of us know too well: brain injury survivors are at an increased risk of depression and suicide.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are services (see below) which can offer immediate support. Call a Distress Centre, or walk into an emergency room. You don’t need to make an appointment. Just call or go.

Recognize the signs

The majority of suicides are planned. This means there can be warning signs that someone may be thinking of suicide, such as:

  • The person talks about how life would have been better if they had died, or would be better if they died.
  • The person begins to talk a lot about death and dying
  • The person gets supplies (such as a gun) they could use to commit suicide
  • The person is very depressed and isolates themselves from friends and family
  • The person loses hope
  • The person visits loved ones and begins saying goodbye as though it’s a ‘final farewell’
  • If a brain injury survivor has attempted suicide in the past, it’s important to be extra aware of these signs, because they are at greater risk of repeating an attempt

How to help

It can be a very scary and over whelming experience to see someone through a mental health crisis. Know there are no ‘magic words’ which can make the person’s suicidal thoughts, depression and / or anxiety go away. But just being there, even if you’re quiet most of the time, is a huge support.

  • Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic of suicide. Ask straight out if the person is suicidal. You won’t be ‘putting’ any thoughts in their head if you bring up the topic.
  • Don’t dismiss or minimize what the person is going through. Statements like: “you should feel lucky to be alive” or “it’s not that bad” are not helpful.
  • Re-assure a person going through severe anxiety that the feeling will not last forever. Anxiety is very treatable. Distraction or breathing exercises can help.
  • Remember most people do not want to die, they want the pain they are experiencing to stop.

Distress Centres + Crisis Lines

Call a distress centre or crisis line any time you feel as though you (or your loved one) is in crisis and needs support. If you (or your loved one) is feeling suicidal, call. If you (or your loved one) is having bad anxiety, a panic attack or are feeling hopeless, call. If you get a busy signal, don’t give up. Keep calling until you get through. They’re open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week (unless otherwise noted.) In an emergency, call 911.

Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357 (HELP)

Gerstein Centre416-929-5200

Kids Help Phone (for kids and young adults 20-years and under): 1-800-668-6868

Seniors Crisis Access Line (for older adults in crisis, service is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.): 416-619-5001

For a complete list of distress centres in Ontario, go here

Mobile Crisis

At times, a mobile crisis unit can come and speak to a person who is contemplating  suicide or is in crisis. They’ll provide counselling, and may offer a safe place to stay for a few days. Some mobile crisis teams can also be accessed by calling 911.

Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200

Community Crisis Response Program (North York and Etobicoke): 416-498-0043 

Emergency Rooms

If the situation feels like an emergency, it likely is an emergency. You can find your local emergency room here, or access the Emergency Assessment Unit at the Centre for Addicition and Mental Health (CAMH):

Emergency Assessment Unit at CAMH
250 College Street, (east of Spadina)
416-979-6885 ; 416-535-8501 ext 6885

For more information on services that can help once the crisis has passed (or if you feel as though a crisis is coming, and are trying to prevent it from happening) contact the Canadian Mental Health Association:   416-789-7957 ext 282 or 416-289-6285.

Sources: American Psychological Association, helpguide.orgsynapse.org.au

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BIST’s Summer Fun + Water Safety Reminder

Nothing beats hanging out by the water during hot, lazy summer days.

It’s easy to feel free and relaxed. And you should.

But it’s also important to remember the hard facts, that more people die from drowning in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada. Certain groups are at increased risk, especially two to four-year-olds, adults 60 and over, people who have lived in Canada for five years or less and men 18 to 49-years-old.

As most people connected with BIST know, surviving a near-drowning doesn’t guarantee things will be easy from then on. Brain damage can occur after the body has been deprived of oxygen for four to five minutes, which makes water safety a crucial component of summer-fun.

Here are some tips to remember when you’re out:

  • Two to four-year-olds are the highest risk group for drowning in the under-five age bracket, and these drownings usually occur near the water. The problem: curious little ones fall into water (such as an outdoor pool) they’ve wandered into in the brief moments their parents aren’t looking. Adults aren’t paying attention, because no one is actually swimming, they’re just near the water. Lack of adult supervision is the biggest risk factor that leads to young children drowning.
  • Young and mid-life men are at increased risk of drowning, particularly due to these at-risk behaviours: consuming alcohol while out in the water, not using a PFD (personal flotation device) when boating, going out in cold, rough waters and being out after dark. Another risk factor: going out on the water alone.
people swimming in an outdoor pool


  • New Canadians, especially folks who have been in the country for five years or less are four times more likely to be unable to swim than people born in Canada. Meanwhile, most people in this group consider swimming to be a very safe activity for themselves and their children.
  • Older adults can be at-risk of drowning if they suffer a medical condition while in the water, such as a heart attack. They may also be at risk if they do not modify activities they did when they were younger,  such as swimming across a small lake, that they’re no longer able to do. At the same time, not wearing a PFD, consuming alcohol while out on the water and going out alone are all risk factors which lead to drowning.
man and girl in a boat wearing life jackets


It’s important to reminder that drowning is a quiet, hard-to-notice event.

A young child can silently slip under the water in the bath, something a parent in another room wouldn’t notice. And most drowning victims can’t call out for help.

This video shows someone drowning in a crowded swimming area, while no one but the lifeguard notices:

 Here’s how to stay safe:

  • Watch kids all the time – especially when you’re near water but not necessarily swimming. That means if there’s a party at the beach or a pool, someone should be ‘assigned’ to watch the young children at all times. Take shifts, so everyone can have grown up fun and keep the kids safe.
  • Don’t swim or boat alone.
  • Wear a life jacket every time you’re in a boat.
  • If you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol, don’t go in the water.
  • Little kids who are not strong swimmers should wear PDFs.
  • Kids under five should not be further away than an arm’s reach from an adult.

Learn how to swim!

Learning how to swim is one of the best things you can do to keep you and your family safe in the water. Free or low-cost lessons are available from the City of Toronto – including lessons for adults. So dive in (safely) and have fun!

Sources: Life Saving Society + Ontario Medical Association

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Pics from BIST/ OBIA’s 10th Annual Mix & Mingle

ddp-22 Mix and Mingle pictures Mix and Mingle pictures ddp-33 ddp-36-2 Take a look at these great pics from the BIST / OBIA Mix & Mingle!



ddp-92Mix and Mingle pictures
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Mix and Mingle picturesddp-36Mix and Mingle picturesMix and Mingle picturesMix and Mingle pictures

10th Annual BIST/OBIA Mix & Mingle

June 11, 2014

Steam Whistle Brewery

Presented by McKellar

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The BIST Guide To FREE Toronto Fun – The QUIET TIMES, FEWER CROWDS Edition


Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit vendor


With traffic jams and massive street festivals taking over our city this season, it’s easy to think that every corner of Toronto is jammed-packed crowded, all the time. But fear not, it is possible to enjoy Toronto and avoid large crowds and too much noise. Here’s how:

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit

Are you an art connoisseur, or are you more in the category of, “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like?” No matter, there’s bound to be something to appeal to everyone at the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit. Held every year since 1961, the exhibit features 500 artists in a variety of art forms including painting, sculpture and ceramics. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

July 4, 5 and 6, Nathan Phillips Square
100 Queen St. West, 416-408-2754

ROM Walks

Are you one of those people who have lived here for years, but don’t really know much about the Toronto’s history or architecture? Then one of the twice-weekly ROM Walks may be just the thing to get to know the city a little better. Walking tours are held Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings between June and October, each one exploring a specific neighbourhood or location, such as the Old Town, Yorkville, the Annex or the Necropolis Cemetery. Walk themes are cyclical, so if you miss one, the same walk will be repeated a few weeks later. CALL FOR ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION: 416 586-8097.

Sundays, 2-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 6-8 p.m. until October
Various locations, 416-586-8097
ROM Walks Brochure (PDF)

Music in the Garden

If classical or world music is your thing, then be sure and investigate the Music in the Garden series in the Music Garden at Harbourfront until mid-September.This summer’s concerts are so diverse, there’s bound to be something for everyone. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Various times and dates
Toronto Music Garden, 475 Queens Quay West
416-973-4000, info@harbourfrontcentre.com

Art Gallery of Ontario – Free on Wednesday Nights

Speaking of art, there are times when we may just need a bit of solitude – some time for quiet reflection away from the tribulations of everyday life. And what better space to find it than at the Art Gallery of Ontario?  Marvel at the Old Masters or discover something new you’ve never seen before in the beautiful Frank Gehry Redesign building on Dundas St. West near McCaul WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Wednesdays, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West (near McCaul)

Outside the Art Gallery of Ontario



Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is presenting numerous exhibits over the summer, including Vasco Araujo: Under the Influence of Psyche, Akram Zaatari: The End of Time and Pedro Reyes: SanatoriumWHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

231 Queens Quay West *Queen Quay is one-way only from Bay St. to Lower Spadina Ave. due to construction – see contruction updates here *
416-973-4949, info@thepowerplant.org

Heritage Toronto

Those particularly interested in Toronto’s history should definitely check out the walking tours offered by Heritage Toronto. Most are held Saturdays and Sundays and are about an hour and a half in length. While the walks are free, a donation at the end is always welcome.

Various times and lcoations, 416-338-1338

People on a Heritage Toronto Walk


Toronto Outdoor Club

Like keeping active? The Toronto Outdoor Club runs hikes throughout the city which are mostly free, guaranteed to help keep you fit, and let you discover new areas of our green city. You need to register for a hike in advance, and they fill up quickly. NOT WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Toronto Outdoor Club


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It’s summer, and as the song goes, “the livin’ is easy.”

It’s a time for patios, hanging out at the beach and cool drinks. And because winter was particularly harsh this year, we can appreciate the longer days and warm temperatures that the season invariably brings that much more.

But what about things to do during this all-too-brief period? Luckily for us, we happen to live in one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world with a plethora of events going on all summer long, and best of all, many of them are free!

Salsa on St. Clair

July 19 - 20, St. Clair Ave. West from Winona Dr. to Christie St.
(416) 744-8200, info@tlntv.com

If you find it impossible to resist swaying to the evocative rhythms of Latin music, then the tenth annual Salsa on St. Clair is definitely for you! Head over to St. Clair West from Winona Drive to Christie Street to see several blocks transform into a showcase of Latin life. Check out their survival guide here.


Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival

July 8 – August 3, various locations, (416) 391-5608
Official launch: July 8, 12-2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m., Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. West (at Bay)
Caribana Parade: Aug. 2, Exhibition Place and Lakeshore Blvd. West

Most Torontonians are familiar with the famous Caribana festival held every August. This year, it has not only expanded, but also has a new name – the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival – running between July 8 and August 3. It’s an exciting blend of Caribbean music, cuisine, revelry and visual and performing arts, and is the largest festival of its kind in North America. Check out the Caribbean Carnival’s survival guide here.

Pilaros Taste of the Danforth

August 8-1o, Danforth Ave from Broadview to Jones
(416) 469-5634, info@tasteofthedanforth.com

The Taste of the Danforth has become an enormously popular event during its 21-year-run, attracting more than 200,000 visitors who come to enjoy Greek food, entertainment and dance.



Waterfront Blues Festival

July 11-13, Woodbine Park (Lakeshore Ave. East and Coxwell Ave.)
(416) 698-2152

Got the summertime blues? Head over to the waterfront to check out a great combination of Canadian and international talent, including established and emerging artists. This year’s line-up year includes Juno Award winner Jack de Keyzer, Sugar Ray Norcia (of the Bluetonnes) Otis Clay and Johnny RawlsIrene Torres and the Sugar Devils and the Brant Parker Blues Band.

Beaches International Jazz Festival

July 18 – 27, Woodbine Park (Lakeshore Ave. East and Coxwell Ave.)
(416) 698-2152

Nothing goes together like jazz music and the summer.  At the Beaches International Jazz Festival, featured artists include soul/funksters Ron Littlejohn and The Funk Embassy, Latin guitar master and world music artist Johannes Linstead and the Swing Shift Big Band.

North York Festival

August 9, Mel Lastman Square (Yonge North of Sheppard)
5100 Yonge St.,  416 500-0007

If you want international all in one place, look no further than the North York Festival in Mel Lastman Square. In addition to live music, dance and singing competitions, a fashion show and magicians, there will be tents set up celebrating Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian cultures.

 Toronto Buskerfest

August 21-24
Downtown Yonge Neighbourhood (Yonge and Dundas area)

Whatever way you feel about street entertainers, you can enjoy their talents at the Scotiabank Buskerfest - come see jugglers, impersonators, musicians and acrobats from all over the world.




Free Movies!

Yonge-Dundas Square

Every Tuesday until Sept. 2, at dusk

Who doesn’t enjoy a good movie? This summer, the City Cinema tradition continues at Yonge-Dundas Square with free outdoor movies presented every Tuesday evening until September 2. Among the movies scheduled are Trainspotting, Little Miss Sunshine, and Almost Famous. If Dundas Square isn’t your thing, you can check out free screenings at these venues:

St. James Park

Every Thursday in July and August, 9-11 p.m.
120 King St. East (at Jarvis)




David Pecaut Square

Every Wednesday in July and August
224 King St. West (at Simcoe)

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is presenting a series of films about “The Biz” – show business that is, every Wednesday during July and August. Must sees: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Searching for Sugar Man

Westjet Stage at Harbourfront Centre

Every Wednesday in July and August
235 Queensquay West
(416) 973-4000, info@harbourfrontcentre.com

This season Harbourfront has got it all when it comes to summer flicks, we’re talking Kissing Jessica Stein, Funny Girl and Mean Girls and oh so very much more!

Summer at Harbourfront

235 Queensquay West
(416) 973-4000, info@harbourfrontcentre.com

Other than free movies, Harbourfront is the place to go for free events during the summer. You can dance on the pier, try a tai chi or yoga class or check out one of the festivals including South Asia Calling, China Now, Habari Africa Festival, Expressions of Brazil, Taiwan Fest and the Hot and Spicy Food Festival.




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Your BIST guide to World Pride!

gay pride parade rainbow banner

World Pride has hit Toronto!

Thinking of going to Pride? Here’s the BIST low-down on what’s happening at Pride, with a highlight on some events we think may be more ABI survivor friendly:

Clean and Sober Proud Place - Friday, Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: A space to hang out and catch performances by local community artists in a drug and alcohol free space.

  • Paul Kane Parkette, 58 Wellelsey St. East (just east of Yonge St.)


 What it Means to Be Seen – Photo Exhibit - Friday, Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: A photo exhibit featuring LGBTQ communities from the 1960s to present. See how much things have changed and stayed the same.

  • Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould St. (south of Gerrard, east of Yonge St.)


Family Pride - Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: Just as it sounds – a family-centred Pride celebration! Set up in the Church Street Public School, Family Pride provides tons of free activities for kids, plus gives parents an opportunity to chill and relax in the quietest, and least crowded space on Church Street. BONUS: FREE DRINKS AND SNACKS AVAILABLE!

  • Church St. Public School, 83 Alexander St. (1 block North of Carlton, just east of Church)




UFCW Canada Pride - Saturday, starts at 10 a.m.

WHAT IS IT: The United Food and Commercial Worker union (UFCW) is hosting a Pride celebration for its members, their friends, family  and basically any community-oriented person who wants to indulge in the spirit of Pride. There will be refreshments, snacks, music, arts and cultural activities.

  • Sheraton Centre Hotel, Civic Ballroom and Foyer, 123 Queen Street West (west of Bay St.)
  • If you’re planning on going, you’re encouraged to sign up here


Proud Voices – Saturday, Sunday, starts 11 a.m. – readings and performances throughout the day

WHAT IS IT: Listen to readings by some of Toronto’s best LGBTTQ writers. Saturday  features readings by established Toronto women writers, and Sunday it’s the men’s turn. 

  • Glay Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St. (just North of Wellesley)


BIST TIP: Getting to Pride from east of Church St. is a lot easier than coming from the west end. But regardless of where you’re coming from – expect crowds. Don’t drive. If you can, walk bike or take the TTC!

  • Avoid Wellesley Station and the surronding area. You will find taking a longer way around to where your going will take less time than managing your way through the crowds.
  • There will be fewer crowds at: Sherbourne Station, Yonge / Bloor station, College Station or Dundas Station – again, it’s worth walk!

For more information: World Pride Toronto


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Community Meeting Re-Cap: Learning How To ‘Shake Out’ Stress

Imagine being at a BIST community meeting where everyone is quiet. You can hear the sound of your breath, and the inhales and exhales of the person sitting next to you. You hear noises in the hall, ambient sounds you haven’t paid attention to before. You notice the sensation of your legs on the chair and your feet on the floor.



Maybe you’re feeling more relaxed. Maybe you’re more stressed, annoyed with the exercise. Or maybe you feel nothing at all. But you notice. You are aware.

This is a guided meditation.

BIST’s community meeting in June, Keeping your cool in Turbulent Times: Strategies for Relaxation, was presented by Michele Meehan, a pyschotherapist and shamanic practioner, who also happens to be the former director of community facilitation at BIST. Talking about stress and what we can do about it, Michele facilitated discussions with BIST members about the following:

  • What are your stressors?

  • How do you know when you’re stressed?

  • Is stress always bad?

  • What is good stress?

  • How can we tell when there is ‘too much’ stress?



Michele shared that ‘good stress’ can be a motivator. A small amount of stress during a friendly sports game, for example, can help us strive to play our best.

We also talked about how our reactions to stress can put us in a loop. Critical self-talk or bad habits we fall into when we are stressed can be more stressful than what was inititally causing the stress (such as running late for an appointment, and then ‘beating ourselves up’ about it.)

Members discussed what happens to our bodies when we are stressed (such as neck tension or cramping) and we learned that noticing what’s happening in our bodies can be the first ‘clue’ that we are stressed out.

Michele shared her tip of ‘shaking out’ stress, which is, just as it sounds, physically shaking out your body. This is something you can do in the privacy of your own home, even hours after a stressful event, since it can take up to a week for your body to metabolize an adrenaline hit from extreme stress. Shaking out stress is a trick learned from animals. After a ‘flight or fright’ response, when an animal is safe, they shake.

Here are some other tips from Michele:

The 4-As of dealing with stress:

  • Avoid stress – if a particular person is stressing you out, can you avoid them?
  • Alter the situation – if the behaviour of a particular person is stressing you out (if, for example, they talk a lot) can you ask them to be more quiet?
  • Adapt - if rush hour is stressful, and you can’t avoid your rush hour commute can you adapt it to make it more pleasant (for example, play music)
  • Accept - some stress is un-avoidable. If you can accept that it is happening (for example, that you need to travel during rush hour, and you will most likely be stuck in traffic) you may find it less stressful. “Arguing with reality is a sure way to make you crazy,” Michele says.

I can do it-1

About meditation:

  • There are many ways to meditate. The trick is to find the practise that’s right for you.
  • A 20-minute meditation can be as restorative as a two-hour nap.
  • The brain does what it does, and if your mind starts to wander during a meditation, that’s ok.
  • Having said that, we can train our brains to try and focus on the present as much as possible.
  • You can meditate with your eyes open and focus on an image, a candle flame, a word, a chant or a mantra that’s meaningul to you.


  • You can watch an example of a guided meditation below or find more examples here
  • You can find examples of breathing exercises here
  • You can find  a list of mindfulness programs in Toronto here
  • The NeuroNova Centre for Mindfulness specializes in mindfulness for people with chronic pain

Celebrate summer + BIST’s 10th anniversary!

July 28th, 6 – 8 p.m.

Dinner, karaoke and a performance by Cougar Bait



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