In this issue The Nation asked people about suicide, how it affects them or the Cree Nation.
Lillian M.H. Angatookaluk, Chisasibi: Life is very important! Suicide causes great pain to loved ones who are left behind. Our creator has given us great wisdom to look forward to and accept his blessings. The creator has given us the power to transform us, to teach us and to make us into better people, but only if we see our creator’s blessing during our crisis, then we realize that even in the darkest moments of our lives, we are deeply loved and abundantly loved by our creator.
Taria Coon, Mistissini: Suicide affects everyone. There’s always that question, why? It always goes back to family situations. When we talk about teenage suicides, there’s something happening within the family. The parents are the key players in the household. If there’s trouble involved with the couple, of course the parents won’t be able to support their children in the way they should. Usually the parents are the security in the family. If the children feel insecure who are they going to turn to? And what usually happens is they turn to alcohol or drugs. It’s only when we face a crisis that people will support one another, but we should be supporting one another all the time though not to the point of meddling. Another thing is, where I work at youth protection, there are a lot of reports of attempted suicide. The youth talk about seeing or hearing supernatural beings; it’s kind of eerie! Even when they’re not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s very strange. I’ve spoken to a few church groups and also Elders and they’re saying that the youth are experiencing spiritual warfare. It is getting very strange.
Caroline Jolly, Nemaska: I don’t believe it only affects the youth. The whole Cree Nation is facing a crisis. We need to deal with this crisis as a nation. This has to stop; we need to work together as a nation in order to deal with this issue. But I’m glad the C.R.A. together with the Cree Health Board and the Cree School Board; are going on the community tours. It’s only the beginning and that was very awesome. And I would like to see more of that happening to deal with this suicide issue and that the healing process must never be allowed to stop.
Kenneth Tanoush, Nemaska: Many of us are affected in different ways. Almost every month in Cree territory, we hear about another suicide. What can the leadership do about this problem? They should focus on human development the way they do on material development. You can live in a beautiful house and still be miserable inside a community. Everywhere you see people who don’t even know who they are. Academic achievements are decreasing; drugs and alcohol are flowing all over the Cree Nation. We could start admitting the problem. Some live just to see another day. What if that day was the last time you see your friend, a mother, a father, a brother, and a sister? Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, we are all equal as one with different dreams and different wisdom. If you help others and yourself, you will conquer it.
Minnie Masty, Whapmagoostui: We experienced two suicide incidents here in Whapmagoostui on the Cree side. It really hurt a lot of people and one of the kids was only 13 years old. In the past we never experienced these problems. It was really hard for the youth especially and everybody else because it happened so suddenly and we didn’t really know how to deal with suicide problems. It’s hard to think where to turn to, because it’s something very new in the community. It’s not only the youth but adults, too. All we can do is to give them support. When people do come and talk about their problems, it always goes back to past different types of abuse, be it sexual abuse or something else. The only way we can start to heal is by coming out in the open and talking about it.
Kathleen Neeposh, Nemaska: In August 1993, we had our first suicide in the community of Nemaska. I had been working for the Cree Board of Health and Social Services for five years and didn’t have much experience in working with people who were suicidal. The young man who committed suicide that day in August had been a client. He had often come to my office to talk, generally about some of the problems he was going through. The day I heard he had committed suicide, I didn’t know what to think. I can still distinctly remember thinking “No, not him. Why?” I was devastated, because not only had I known him as a client but also as a friend. There were many things that went through my mind that day, remembering I had just seen him the day before, at precisely 5 pm. He had an appointment with one of the visiting professionals. As he came in for his appointment, I had asked him, “Are you going to be okay, do you want me to be there with you for support?” I can still hear his words as he headed downstairs, as if were yesterday. “No, Kathleen. I’ll be fine. I will see you tomorrow, okay?” That tomorrow never came, for he ended his life the next day. This suicide affected me in more ways than one. I used to question myself, “Did I miss something he was trying to tell me; could I have done more to help him or prevent this tragedy?” The point to this sad story is that when someone you know or have been close to takes their life, it affects us a lot. We shouldn’t blame ourselves. We never know what the person is thinking or planning. For those who have thought of suicide or may even have contemplated it, consider this: suicide is not the answer to one’s problems. You leave behind loved ones in turmoil who will live with it. Instead, please talk to someone who you trust, let the person know what is happening. That someone might just make a difference.