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A Beacon of Hope: Centre Opens Doors of Support

Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention | Grimshaw, AB

Opening in Grimshaw in June of 2023, the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention (RCSP) is on a mission to promote mental well-being, raise awareness, eliminate stigma and educate to reduce suicide, suicidal behaviours and their impacts.

Self-proclaimed “Jill of all trades,” Casey Szmata, 53, is the centre’s operations coordinator. Recognizing the need, Szmata spearheaded a movement to provide resources for mental health, bereavement and suicide prevention in the Peace Region.  

“Unfortunately, in the North we have limited access to mental health resources,” said Szmata. “Our centre works to provide awareness, prevention and postvention services for everyone in the area.”

RCSP’s programs provide much-needed support in a variety of areas. And, for many Grimshaw is much more accessible than Grande Prairie. For people struggling with matters concerning suicide, the centre is a place to go to be heard and seen. Plus, RCSP hosts a variety of support groups, programs and workshops.

“Life isn’t easy these days. We’ve been through some really challenging times and have lost a lot of people to suicide,” said Szmata. “It is huge to have somewhere to go that has someone who cares and who can help.”

Casey Szmata, RCSP Operations Coordinator

Since opening in Grimshaw, things have been busy at the RCSP. Some are seeking support for their own grief and others are there because they have people in their lives who have suicidal thoughts. Either way, Szmata says this is exactly what the centre is for. 

“When you get recognized on the street—when people tell you what you are doing is important—that’s how you know you’ve made an impact,” said Szmata.

Szmata lost her daughter to suicide in the month of December. She says it is a difficult time for her each year.

“As a rule, people who are alone at Christmas time and other holidays feel it even worse,” said Szmata. “I really wanted to incorporate our grief groups into the holiday season and make it special.”

The centre offers grief groups year-round. They begin with a sharing circle and typically finish with an activity to release emotions—for example paint nights, yoga or hosting guest speakers.

“We are all here for the same reason,” said Szmata. “Nobody has to be afraid or intimidated. We are all hurting, and we’re here to try and find hope and strength.”

For those who cannot attend in person, there is an online suicide bereavement group the first Wednesday of each month, which often has people from all over British Columbia and Alberta.

“These groups may not be in person, but they still offer a time to release emotion and say things you might not be able to talk about with your friends and family,” said Szmata.

RCSP offers several free online courses to help people understand suicide better, give ideas on how to approach the subject and let people know what to do if someone is suicidal.

“Just one class can teach you to say, ‘How are you really?’ which can make a world of difference,” said Szmata.

Volunteers Angela Bentt and Charla Gannon help paint the facility before the grand opening

Another program Szmata is excited about is called Skills for Safer Living. This program consists of two groups—parents/caregivers and youth. The aim is to teach parents/caregivers how to understand their children while teaching youth how to deal with suicidal thoughts and to de-escalate events as they happen.

Part of the Skills for Safer Living program teaches youth at risk how to make safe plans and choose someone as a safe person. In addition, it underscores the importance of talking about your feelings. Youth in crisis can benefit greatly from better understanding why they feel the way they do.

“We want them to know they are normal, and they are going to be okay,” said Szmata.

Alongside this program, the centre has been working on hosting youth nights. The goal is to get youth into the centre, do fun activities and teach them to be aware of emotions in their friends and family.

“I want them to feel comfortable coming here. I want them to know we can talk, and we can help,” said Szmata. “The more kids we can teach this information to, the more we have helping others later on.”

Providing comfort to people who have lost someone to suicide can be difficult, but Szmata knows from experience the best thing can often be connecting with others who have been through something similar.

“I didn’t believe this when I lost my daughter, but a bereavement group is the best thing I ever had,” said Szmata.

Szmata wants to empower others, so they know how to approach and help people who have suicidal thoughts.

“People think if they bring up suicide it’s going to make someone end their life, which is false,” said Szmata. “If someone is in that depth of despair, saying something is not going to plant a seed–chances are they have already thought of it.”

Casey Szmata (Left) accepts a $1,000 donation from the ATB on behalf of the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention

Szmata suggests that everyone should feel free to have open discussions about suicide with their family and friends.

“There is nothing better than just connecting with people about how they really feel.” said Szmata. “The more you talk about it, the more people aren’t afraid to open up, and that is what we need.”

One of the big goals for RCSP is to get a men’s program started for the region.

“Statistics show men take their own life more often than women,” said Szmata. “I really think it is crucial we find some way to engage our male population in this area.”

Szmata would like to see the centre grow and be sustainable—for example having staff members is on her wish list—but for now she is focusing on one thing.

“Most importantly, I want to save lives,” said Szmata. “I’m proud to be here and excited to see what the future holds. People say you can’t change the world, but I’m certainly going to try!”

If you’re interested in volunteering at the centre, contact Szmata directly. Volunteers are always welcome to be involved in the centre, to learn and to share their knowledge and experience with people who could benefit from it.

Visit the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention in person at 5005 53rd Ave in Grimshaw, AB or online at or

By Siobhan Kennedy | Photography Submitted

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