The Prince Albert Daily Herald salutes the young people of Montreal Lake Cree Nation for their efforts towards holding the first “You Are Not Alone” suicide awareness walk this coming weekend.
The group is working under the banner Youth Creating Change and the initiative and the length of the walk deserve tremendous respect and support, as the walk will start at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre parking lot on Friday at 6 p.m and won’t wrap up until Sunday evening when the walkers are expected to arrive in Montreal Lake.
While the much-publicized suicide of Robin Williams last week brought the topic back into the public spotlight, there is much more that needs to be done. Few people would know that suicide is now the leading cause of death, by injury, in the United States. Varying numbers put the number of Americans dying every year by suicide at between 36,000 and 40,000.
In Canada, the annual number is pegged at about 3,500, which is a lower rate than our American neighbours. But, it impacts all ages, both sexes, and people from every walk of life. In Canada it hits no group harder than aboriginal youth. Report after report in this country has referred to the situation of suicide amongst aboriginal youth as a crisis.
According to Health Canada, suicide rates are seven times higher for First Nations youth than non-aboriginal youth and the rate among Inuit youth is the highest in the world, 11 times higher than the national average.
There are no easy answers to suicide and in many, many cases it comes as a shock to friends and loved ones. One way to stem the tide is for young people at risk to see their peers, their communities, and their leaders sending a message that they have value, are loved and have people who will help them find other solutions to the challenges overwhelming them.
It appears that Montreal Lake residents and leaders have rallied around the young people who have planned and organized the You Are Not Alone walk, and that in itself is encouraging. Just as each suicide impacts the entire community, it is incumbent on the entire community to play a role in stemming the tide.
The success of this first time initiative will dictate whether it will happen again next year and beyond. We hope that residents of all area communities, including Prince Albert step forward to show organizers and those who have contemplated suicide or might in the future that they matter and have other, better, options.
While everyone and their dog is dumping buckets of ice water on themselves (which has raised record-smashing amounts of money for the ALS Association, which is fantastic), it will be interesting to see how many members of the community step forward to donate and walk a kilometre or two along with these motivated First Nations young people.
Talking about suicide isn’t easy, but it is coming out of the darkness and being talked about more than ever before. Doing something about it is even harder. These young people are taking that first step, along with tens of thousands of more steps over the weekend.
Who else will walk with them?