11/17/2012 08:24 EST | Updated 01/17/2013 05:12 EST

Alberta Suicide Rates Among The Highest In Canada

The number of people in Alberta who commit suicide each year is among the highest in the country, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In 2011, an estimated 500 people took their own lives in this province; however health experts say many of those deaths are preventable.

Most people who kill themselves have a mental illness, says Dan Delaloye with the Canadian Mental Health Association. But Delaloye says those people need to feel it’s OK to seek help.

“The stigma that's associated with suicide, that's our number one that we need to understand," said Delaloye.

Today the Canadian Mental Health Association hosted the 8th annual Survivors of Suicide Day in Calgary.

Delaloye says the conference helps those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

"They can connect, they're not alone, they're not isolated," Delaloye said. "It literally impacts almost everybody at some point in their life."

Bill Bone lost his 22-year-old daughter Melissa to suicide 10 years ago.

He says the heart wrenching case of Amanda Todd brought back tough memories, but has also brought the issue to the forefront.

Todd is the 15-year-old who killed herself in October after suffering years of bullying.

"It causes all of us to reflect, and for those who haven't been touched by suicide to become aware," Bone said.

Bone volunteers his time talking to highschool students about suicide.

"I'm just amazed how kids are willing to talk about such a difficult topic."

Nancy Gant’s son Justin poisoned himself six years ago, just before Christmas.

Gant took the 20-year-old to a psychiatrist for treatment, but had no idea her son's problems were so serious.

“Not for a second. I thought he was seeing the right people,” Gant said.

“The public needs to be aware of this beforehand, not just for us to help people but for the people themselves that might be thinking of it to realize that there is help and that it's okay to talk about and ask for help.”

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