A somber discussion was hosted at Lakeland College yesterday afternoon. The topic of the event, which filled a lecture room at the school, was the First Nations youth suicide crisis.
A panel of four experts was convened to guide students through the issue. The four were to be Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young, Albert Berland, Professor of Native Studies at Lakeland College, Verna Buffalo Calf, a prevention counselor based out of the Ekweskeet Healing Centre in Onion Lake, and Melva Tootoosis, a community intervention advocate and counsellor who works at the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre.
While only Buffalo Calf and Tootoosis were able to make it to the event, the students who filled the lecture room were able to explore a wide range of topics in relation to the crisis, such as the enduring legacy of the residential school system and its impacts on First Nation’s people across Canada, and in the local area.
According to those who participated in the event, the discussion was a positive thing to have,
“I think it’s really an important issue that people need to talk about,” said Niska Nighttraveler, a third year business student at Lakeland and a member of the Aboriginal Student Advisory Committee.
“I think it’s great that we had a panel here, and that we got to listen to some elders and some wise words from them.”
Tootoosis described her motivations for being part of the event as wanting to re-educate and rebuild First Nations communities, and to raise the importance of First Nations cultural programming being included in schools. She also went into further detail about what she had described as a paradigm shift for First Nations people.
“The paradigm shift was prophesized by our elders,” said Tootoosis.
“I’m speaking on behalf of their teachings, and what they passed on from generation to generation. We’ve gone through seven generations of darkness, and hardship, and punishment, and now we’re re-awakening, re-discovering that we’re human beings like anybody else. We’re no different, and we need a lot of support in supporting our people and helping them go through that recovery process.”
Tootoosis also indicated that building up the self-confidence of the young would be a good step forward.
More information on suicide prevention can be found here: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/mental/index-eng.php.