Not talking about it isn’t working.
This was the message that the coordinator of the Anglican suicide prevention program wore on her shirt when she attended the recent Seventh Sacred Circle Aug. 5 to 12 in Pinawa, Man.
Suicide is “not an easy tea and cookie conversation,” Cynthia Patterson told a gathering of about 200 indigenous Anglicans. However, she added, the pandemic among First Nations people can no longer be ignored.
In Nunavut, the suicide rate is 15 times the national average of 15 per 100,000 people; in the Arctic, it is 11 times the national average.
Patterson pointed to the courage of Northern Ontario Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, who has helped to pry open the lid on suicide by acknowledging the loss of her son to suicide. Families also need to talk about suicide instead of sweeping it under the rug, said Patterson. “We have kids, aunts and uncles who die and the pain is so great…we don’t talk about them for a long time or never. It’s as if they’ve disappeared.”
For its part, the church has moved oversight of the suicide prevention program to the indigenous ministry department, noted Patterson. The aim is to “extend its’ reach into every nook and cranny,” said National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald in an interview. To help accomplish this, suicide prevention will now be part of training for clergy, catechists and other church workers, he told the Journal.
– With files from General Synod Communications.