Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lending a hand for suicide prevention: An interview with Marc Kajouji

Nadia Kajouji, left, is embraced by her father
Mohamed Kajouji, sitting right. (Credit: Marc
Kajouji.)
In 2008, tragedy struck Marc Kajouji and his family: his sister, Nadia Kajouji, died by suicide while she was away at Carleton University. Nadia was grappling with a number of personal issues: a devastating break up with her long-time boyfriend, then another failed romantic relationship. She was also struggling to deal with an unplanned pregnancy and a miscarriage, causing  her to fall into a downward spiral of insomnia, severe depression, and postpartum mood disorder. To make matters even worse, she was manipulated into ending her own life by an online predator, William Melchert-Dinkel, who pretended to be a suicidal female nurse sympathizing with people who were severely depressed. Now, Marc works for Your Life Counts (YLC), an online suicide prevention organization. He wants to ensure that nobody else has to go through what Nadia experienced.
 
1. When did you become an Ambassador for YLC, and what makes YLC unique in their approach, aside from the fact that it is an online suicide prevention service?

Marc Kajouji (MK): Around the summer of 2009. YLC is an online service. Rory Butler [the founder and CEO of YLC] also helped out with the investigation for Nadia, working with Sergeant Jaswal, who was investigating. Rory contacted me directly through the police as opposed to on Facebook, which I think really speaks to his professionalism.

2. What do your duties as a YLC Ambassador include?

MK: There are no specific duties--I do anything I can to help, whether it's fundraising, raising awareness, or just understanding someone who is having a rough time.

3. You also serve on YLC's Board of Directors. When did you take on this role, and what do your duties include?

MK: I took on this role about six months ago. Right now, we are trying to raise money for the Gift of Life campaign. Our goal is to raise $3 million to help continue providing services, as YLC receives no government funding.

4. How does YLC ensure that people who are struggling with depression/suicide get help right away?

MK: It's an ongoing challenge, because we don't have a national strategy. Bill C-300 needs to be passed. It goes beyond mental health--the main focus is better government funding and strategy.

5. What's your response to people who don't take the issues of depression and suicide seriously?

MK: You can't force people to understand depression/suicide. I try to focus on the people who can help, not the negative.

6. How do you think post-secondary institutions could better support mental health?

MK: It all goes back to Bill C-300, which would provide a clear mental health strategy. Bill C-300 would also assist schools in dealing with mental health. 
 
I would like to thank Marc Kajouji for taking the time to discuss his work with YLC, and for working towards suicide prevention.
 
YLC has qualified health care professionals who have a strong background in social work volunteering their time to help people who are at risk of dying by suicide. YLC is always in need of donations to continue their work. To learn more information on how you can donate, please visit their website: http://www.yourlifecounts.org/support-ylc/donate