Celebrations around the holiday season can often give way to feelings of anxiety, loneliness or even depression, but we’re here to say there is hope and introduce you to a support network that’s here to help.

Our roles as reporters, photographers and editors of your Halton newspapers put us on the frontlines of tragic community stories, asking tough questions with the utmost sensitivity as we work tirelessly to bring you the news.

We also understand that, as part of that commitment, there is an opportunity to engage our readers in conversations on topics, such as mental health and suicide — the latter being a detail we do not routinely report on because of journalistic standards set by our publication.

In recent weeks, however, these tragedies have become much more public and put us face-to-face with tough decisions on how we report with integrity, but more importantly, honesty.

We’re told that our community is safe, growing and prosperous. Yet for many of us, happiness is about more than low taxes, and when it comes to the statistics on mental health and suicide in Halton, the numbers don’t lie.

According to Halton Regional Police, 459 people in our community this year attempted, or died by suicide – more than in any year prior, and a 125 per cent increase since 2009.

As of late November, the same men and women in uniform responded to more than 1,600 mental health calls this year.

The statistics show that the occurrence-to-apprehension ratio, an incident when police would transport a person to hospital, has increased from 30 per cent in 2009, to 70 per cent this year.

Halton police have been working with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Halton Region Branch through the Crisis Outreach and Support Team program (COAST) – a 24/7 hotline to assist Halton residents in crisis, as well as those struggling with mental health and/or addictions.

“The goal of the program is to allow an individual, who is in crisis or has a serious mental illness, to remain in their own environment and we go out with a range of accessible services and interventions — we go to them,” said Const. Kris Elliott, one of the two police officers assigned to COAST.

“Our mandate is to divert from hospital and to divert from the justice system.”

In cases where COAST staff visits a residence, they attempt to reduce unwanted attention by not wearing uniforms or arriving in marked police cruisers.

“There’s no stigma attached to our assessments,” Elliott said, adding they will transport someone to hospital if they feel that a person’s safety is at risk, or if it’s requested.

“If you have a concern, the best thing you can do is tell somebody…. It can be the crisis department at the hospital, it could be the crisis department here, it can be 9-1-1, but reach out and tell somebody,” Elliott said.

In addition to the resources provided by COAST, there are numerous other organizations and programs dedicated to assisting residents with triggers such as poverty that can lead to feelings of helplessness around this time of year. Remember, too, that many companies, especially large employers, offer employee assistance programs.

From us to you, our gift this holiday season is hope.

Here is a compilation of some local community resources that can help you begin that journey.

Mental Health Services and Support Services:

• Acclaim Health — 905-827-8800; toll-free 1-800-387-7127

• ADAPT Substance Abuse Treatment Program — 905-639-6537

• Alcoholics Anonymous Halton – 905-845-5900

• Alzheimer Society of Hamilton and Halton — 289-837-2310

• Bereaved Families of Ontario – Halton/Peel — 905-848-4337

• Burlington Counselling & Family Services — 905-637-5256

• Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Branch — 905-693-4270

• Canadian Red Cross — 905-845-5241

• Carpenter Hospice — 905-631-9994, ext. 35

• Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) — 1-877-825-9011

• Danielle’s Place, Eating Disorder Support and Resource Centre: 905-333-5548

• Distress Centre Oakville — 905-849-4541

• Distress Centre North Halton — 905-877-1211

• Fare Share Food Bank — 905-847-3988

• Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) — 905-815-5140, ext. 4900

• HHS Eating Disorder Program — 905-815-5140, ext. 4814

• Halton Family Services — 905-845-3811

• Halton Suicide Prevention Coalition — www.suicidepreventionhalton.ca

• Halton Women’s Place — Burlington (south) shelter main, 905-332-1593, and Burlington (south) shelter crisis line, 905-332-7892; Milton (north) shelter main, 905-878-8970, Milton (north) shelter crisis line, 905-878-8555

• The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) — Neurosciences and Mental Health — 416-813-8945

• SickKids’ Happy and Healthy campaign — www.healthyandhappy.com

• Interfaith Council of Halton —905-849-6000 ext. 11

• Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital — 905-631-1939

• Kerr Street Ministries — 905-845-7485

• Kids Help Phone — 1-800-668-6868

• Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual Youth Line — 1-800-238-9688

• Halton Organization for Pride and Education (HOPE) — 905-632-4551

• GLBT Youth Support Group — toll-free 1-877-860-4673

• Mental Health Helpline — 1-866-531-2600

• Nelson Youth Centres — 905-681-2611

• North Halton Mental Health Clinic — 905-693-4240

• North Halton Distress and Information — 905-877-1211

• North Halton Child and Youth Psychiatry Program — 905-693-4240

• North Halton Child & Youth Psychiatry Program — 905-693-4240

• Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital — 905-845-2571

• Oakville & Milton Humane Society — 905-845-1551

• Oakville Parent-Child Centre — 905-849-6366

• Phoenix Program: Early Intervention to Psychosis — 905-815-5140, ext. 4900

• Province of Ontario’s ConnexOntario: 1-866-531-2600 (mental health), 1-800-565-8603 (addictions) or 1-888-230-3505 (problem gambling)

• Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) — Intake: 905-634-2347, ext. 439 24-hour Crisis Line: 905-878-9785

• Region of Halton — 311; 905-825-6000

• Salvation Army of Burlington — 905-637-3893

• Salvation Army of Halton Hills — 519-853-1140

• Salvation Army of Oakville — 905-827-5324

• St. John Ambulance — 905-469-9325

• SAVIS of Halton 24-hour Crisis/Support Line — 905-875-1555

• Schizophrenia Society of Ontario — Halton Peel Regional Office — 905-338-2112

• Support and Housing Halton — 905-845-9212

• Teen Crisis Line — 905-878-9785

• United Way of Oakville — 905-845-5571

• The Women’s Centre — 905-847-5520

• Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services — 905-689-4727

• Supported Training and Rehabilitation in Diverse Environments (STRIDE) — 905-693-4252