Breaking the Silence and Stigma Surrounding Suicide: Collateral Damage Project on Display at Health Sciences Centre

Photo caption: Scott Chishom, Founder of the Collateral Damage Project and Anna Betty Achneepineskum, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, stand next to the photo and story of Margaret Hajdinjak, a participant in the project and a Patient Family Advisor for the Health Sciences Centre. Margaret's photo is just one piece of a touring gallery that hopes to eliminate stigma and create a proactive dialogue about mental health and suicide. The photos will be on display in various locations of the Hospital for the next ten days.

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the Collateral Damage Project are breaking the silence and the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide in honour of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, September 10th.

Founded by Scott Chisholm, the Collateral Damage Project works to prevent suicide by stomping stigma, creating proactive dialogue and advocating for mental health training. With open communication at its heart, the project includes a touring gallery exhibition and book depicting portraits of those “left behind” by a loved one’s suicide. Pieces of the touring gallery will be on display throughout the Hospital for ten days.

“We’re proud to be working with the Collateral Damage Project and all that it stands for as part of our commitment to acute mental health,” said Dr. Peter Voros, Director of Adult and Forensic Mental Health and Psychosocial Practice Head. “We want our Hospital to be a safe and welcoming environment and believe that everyone should be respected equally, regardless of age, illness or culture. We are working hard to adopt attitudes and behaviours that recognize mental health as an integral part of the delivery of comprehensive acute care services while increasing the overall knowledge and competency of all staff in order to help improve the sensitivity of our care.”

“Many of our First Nation communities suffer disproportionally high rates of suicide, especially amongst our youth, and lack access to adequate mental health services,” said Anna Betty Achneepineskum, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation. “It is important that our members receive compassionate care when transferred to regional health care facilities. We appreciate Scott’s leadership on the Collateral Damage Project and recognize the commitment of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre to creating a more accommodating and culturally appropriate environment for all those affected by suicide.”

The importance of mental health services is something that Margaret Hajdinjak knows all too well. She became a Patient Family Advisor (PFA) for our Hospital after losing her son, Steven, to suicide nearly eight years ago. She shares her story and experiences with our Hospital and the Collateral Damage Project in an effort to raise awareness and erase the stigma surrounding suicide.

“Mental health affects so many people, and you can’t always tell who is suffering from thoughts of suicide,” she said. “I became a PFA so that my experiences can lead to improvements for other patients and families who may be struggling with mental health issues. It’s important to ensure that help is available in a safe and stigma-free environment for those who need it.”

“Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death. I believe in the healing and preventative power of story, and that’s what this gallery represents,” said Chisholm. “I hope that people will come in and view the portraits and stories of loved ones who have been left behind. Perhaps it will start a dialogue with a co-worker, friend, neighbour or family member. Perhaps it could help make a difference.”

Anyone interested in viewing the Collateral Damage Project is encouraged to visit our Hospital over the next 10 days. To learn more about how we’re prioritizing acute mental health, please visit

To learn more about the Collateral Damage Project, please visit