Karen Hoersch has purpose now. She is an important person now. 


Karen Hoersch is a suicide survivor.

But it was not always this way.

She recalls waking up in the morning, going to the kitchen to get some breakfast before going to school. When she got to the kitchen, she discovered blood everywhere, but her mother was nowhere to be found. Everybody was gone. She had no idea what was going on so she cleaned up the mess so that her sister would not be exposed to this shocking scene. At, the time Karen was 7 and her sister was 5.

Karen has been exposed to suicide and mental illness all her life.

Because of her mother’s illness , Karen has been in every hospital emergency room in the city.

Her son has been a drug addict form a young age.

She vividly remembers the time that she wanted to commit suicide and went to the Redwood  Bridge to throw herself off and  into to the fast moving deep and dark Red River below. At the same time, she was aware that there were numerous cars passing close beside her. They had to see her. It would be impossible not to. And yet not one car stopped or even slowed down to ask her what she was doing. To ask, are you ok? Not one car.

As she was contemplating committing suicide, images of her drug addicted son flashed into her mind. Her thoughts immediately went to this: if I commit suicide right now, who will look after my son?

In one year, using pills and alcohol, Karen tried to commit suicide 9 times. One of those 9 times was different. Karen explained that she used the self injury method of “cutting” as a method to shift her mental suicide ideation to a physical location. Self injury according to Karen brings a momentary sense of calm, but is usually followed by a sense of guilt and shame. On one occasion Karen was “cutting” but she cut too deep and ended up slitting her wrists and had to be rushed to the hospital.

When we talked, Karen made reference after reference about how she was exposed to suicide in her youth, how in the last three years she lost 5  friends to suicide, how as a MDMA addict she went from 270 pounds to 88 pounds …..in…..one…..year.

Oh, and she was diagnosed for depression at age 15 with post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder to follow.

Real. Depressing. Bad trip.

But what is truly remarkable about Karen and what really impressed me was how has decided, through hard work, through volunteering , through constantly keeping those suicide ideation voices in perspective and help from the Canadian Mental Health Association that her life is really worth something. She has purpose. Volunteering at the CMHA gave her insight into who she could be as a human being and with that she gained the confidence to admit she had a lot to offer. She offered to tell her story as a suicide survivor to anyone who listened. She offered to communicate with anyone contemplating suicide through her Facebook site. ( Karen’s Facebook site: KrHoersch) She offered to go to schools and tell her suicide survivor story to let students know they can get help. And she will personally be there to help anyone. Although she admitted she still has struggles, Karen has taken a life full of turbulence, mayhem, chaos and darkness to one full of determination, hope and a sense of what happiness can look like.

Karen never once gave me the impression she wanted me to feel sorry for her. She has no time for that. She is a woman in charge of her life, and through our discussion, she made that abundantly clear. 

As we were wrapping up, Karen shared two last thoughts.

One. She feels that if anything good might come out of COVID, it is that perhaps now mental health is on the front burner and that people are talking about it. As more and more people, because of COVID, experience a level of anxiety, she wants everyone to know there is no shame in any level of mental illness. Insightful.

And two. She smiled quietly and said “ I am a much happier person”. 

Canadian Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (24 hours)

Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line: 1-877-435-7170 (24 hours)

Canadian Mental Health Association 1-204-982-6100

Stuart Murray