After hearing Collateral Damage Project founder Scott Chisholm speak, a group of Lakehead University students were inspired to take action in support of suicide awareness and prevention. The students have organized a week-long fundraising drive, starting on March 4 and culminating with a benefit concert with singer/songwriter Craig Cardiff on Saturday, March 9 at the Finlandia Club.

Three years ago, the Collateral Damage Project was launched in Thunder Bay with the goal preventing suicide by stomping stigma, creating proactive dialogue and pushing for gatekeeper training. With open communication at its heart, the project includes a touring gallery exhibition and book (both depicting portraits of those “left behind” by a loved one’s suicide), a number of annual fundraising events, and speaking appearances by Chisholm and members of the advisory team, some of Canada’s most respected and recognized athletes, musicians and doctors. In 2012, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health honoured Chisholm with a prestigious Champions of Mental Health Award.

Chisholm sees community and student participation as a key to “breaking the stigma that surrounds suicide and creating a proactive dialogue in the community.” Lakehead University student, Bridney Prout, was driven to get involved and came up with the idea of trying to raise one dollar per student at Lakehead. “At only twenty-two, I’ve already lost more than a handful of people to suicide. This isn’t something that should be happening again and again,” said Prout. With a total student body of nearly 8000 students, an $8000 goal has been set for the week. If LU students are up to the challenge of raising the money, Collateral Damage will bring its National Photo Exhibit to Lakehead University.

More important than raising money though, is raising awareness and opening up a dialogue around a subject that has long been treated as taboo. The stigma that surrounds suicide is palpable – it can act as a barrier between those at risk of suicide and the help they need, and makes the healing process even more difficult for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Craig Cardiff is an artist who, throughout his fifteen-year career, has always been a willing supporter of social causes and an advocate for mental health. He has always encouraged people to be open and share things about themselves, both good and bad. “We all have issues and when we start talking about it … that’s the key of making everybody relax a little bit and just be open to everyone.” Cardiff has built his reputation on his unique live show and earned a Juno nomination in 2012 for his album Floods and Fires.

Craig Cardiff will be playing at the Finlandia Club on Saturday March 9; tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the door.