Spring 2018 PEG


For virtually everyone affected by someone’s suicide, a question lingers: is there something I could have done? Marcel Chichak, P.Eng., says he has been touched by four suicides. “One of the legacies of suicide is guilt: the feeling that I could have made more of an effort,” says Mr. Chichak, a senior bridge planner and river engineering specialist at Stantec in Edmonton. “That will never go away.” He manages a group of engineers and loves helping people succeed. But when it comes to dealing with suicide and mental illness, he admits that he feels unqualified. “Maybe that's part of the problem: few of us have any training to deal with mental illness, so we don't discuss it at all,” says Mr. Chichak.

experience and the knowledge to help suicidal people, but they struggle for recognition and support.” Dr. Fair thinks more members and others need to realize that mental health issues are common but treatable. He admires Ms. Turnbull’s initiative, particularly because it comes in the wake of her husband’s suicide. A professional opera singer, she reached out to her musical friends throughout Canada to create a sunrise-to-sunset series of concerts, called Mysterious Barricades, to promote hope and awareness in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day. In 2018, the concerts take place on Saturday, September 15. More awareness is great. And another place ripe for improvement is health insurance and benefits

“One of the legacies of suicide is guilt: the feeling that I could have made more of an effort. That will never go away.”


packages, Dr. Fair says. If you injure a shoulder or leg during sports, getting treatment is likely straightforward. Getting help for mental illness? Not so much. “Allowances for mental health are often limited in comparison to what’s available for physical health. It might be only a fraction. So many people don’t go for treatment when they need it,” says Dr. Fair. “I would be so proud of our professions, our members, and our permit holders, if we were to take a stand to say that mental health is important.”

Professional engineers and professional geoscientists should address suicide by standing together and spreading awareness, says Ivan Fair, P.Eng., PhD, the Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Alberta. Ms. Turnbull is a friend and so was her late husband, a former roommate. “The engineering community is one of my communities,” says Dr. Fair. “I am an engineer, and I teach engineering, which is seen as a staid, stolid profession. Let’s recognize the importance of mental health and support not just engineers and geoscientists but society at large. Organizations exist with the


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