A shocking Halloween decoration in North Vancouver's Edgemont neighbourhood resulted in a police response and a call for better taste in how we mark the season.
Rose LeMay was at the stoplight near Edgemont Boulevard and Ridgewood Drive, Oct. 5 when she saw the scene play out in silhouettes projected onto a window. Over the span of about seven seconds, she saw what appeared to be a man donning a noose and hanging himself.
“It created for me a whole bunch of response that I thought I’d actually seen a suicide. It was that good in terms of level of detail,” she said.
LeMay jumped out of her car and ran to the front door to intervene. Her passengers called 911. It was when she reached the door that she saw the scene change to one of a woman murdering a man, and later, zombies.
“All I know is I walked away thinking that I witnessed a suicide that I couldn’t stop,” she said.
LeMay said it’s important for people to know that suicide is not a rare thing in Canada and tricking people into believing they’ve witnessed one can be a source of very real trauma, especially for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
“It is literally true that at least one in 10 people walking down that street or driving down that street will have known somebody who has [died by] suicide and this scene is immensely triggering,” she said.
People in First Nations communities, particularly Inuit people, are disproportionately affected, LeMay, who is Indigenous herself, added.
Halloween decorations shouldn’t be a source of trauma, LeMay said, encouraging others not to use ones that portray suicide, especially ones that are intended to be taken in by the general public.
“Canadians need to understand that this is not what we do to each other as neighbours. This is way beyond the pale. It’s horrific. It’s just incredibly cruel,” she said.
North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries said officers attended and confirmed everyone was safe but he said the owner is entitled to freedom of expression and it’s not for police to say how people decorate their homes. DeVries added people can take a more trauma-informed approach to the season.
“It’s important for people, as well, to realize that there are certain topics that some people might find a trigger, and one of those is suicide. There’s room to argue that it’s in poor taste, to use an image of suicide as Halloween decoration, which is supposed to be fun and light-hearted.”
If you - or someone you know - is in crisis or distress, know that you are not alone. There is help and there are people who will listen. Talk to a family member, a teacher, a doctor, a coach or a person you trust. Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Call the Crisis Centre at 604-872-3311 or provincewide at 1-800-SUICIDE. Young people can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a professional counsellor.
Families dealing with mental illness can call the Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society at 604-926-0856.