“North Saskatchewan communities learned Tuesday that a 10-year-old girl in Deschambault Lake had taken her own life. The news came as people were still reeling from the suicides of three girls, ages 12 to 14, who died in the span of four days.” CBC News, Oct. 20, 2016.
Once again we are shocked into awareness of the suicide epidemic that faces many in Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities, particularly those in the north. And again we search for answers, and wonder what we can do to respond to these recurring crises.
The first response of caring people is one of deep sorrow. In some small but real way, we share the pain of the families and communities who must somehow cope with these tragedies and also live in dread of when the next one might occur. We are “relatives”, bound together by our common humanity, even when we don’t know one another’s names. And so we mourn together, across the miles.
And we also search our minds and hearts for answers, for workable solutions.
The CBC news report of October 20th forcefully makes one point that provides us with a place to start:
It’s the people who live in these communities who know what the problems are and who know the solutions. They know what causes the feeling of hopelessness that grips so many, especially the young. They also know about the shortage of support systems and how those gaps could be addressed. The news article is a succinct account of both the problems and possible solutions.
What remains for the rest of us is to decide to become allies in the struggle to bring about real change. An ally is first of all a learner and a listener, one who looks to those who live with the struggle to show us the helpful and the unhelpful ways to provide support.
It would be a timely response for every United Church in Saskatchewan to sit down in small groups with the news report: to read it, reflect on it, and share our ideas on how we might become allies of those in La Ronge, La Loche, and other communities in this province’s north. Together, read the story and hear the words of Jadene Irving’s family, as they face the reality of her suicide.
As we continue to commit to being allies or change-makers, the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are one place for us to start and continue—together.
Dawn Guenther and Bill Wall, co-conveners: All My Relations Network,
The United Church of Canada.