OHSWEKEN – Laurie A. Hill says that suicide is a desperate act by someone in great pain who feels they have no other options – not an act of selfishness.
“It’s not selfish at all,” says Hill. “When a person comes to that point of desperation in their life, they’ve suffered for a long time – it’s not just a random split decision they make.”
Hill is a member of Six Nations’ Rekindling Our Fires group, a group that aims to bring suicide awareness back into the community by strengthening the community’s mental, spiritual and emotional well-being.
On Christmas Eve, the group put together an afternoon filled with games, story-telling and crafts, followed by a free dinner for all their guests. They wanted to see people together with their families, making new friends during a time that can be very difficult for those whose lives have been altered by suicide.
“I don’t know why, but for some reason it seems like it’s been harder this year,” said Michele General, who lost her son Tylor to suicide in 2010. “It’ll be six years this spring and it’s just been so hard this year, maybe because of all the losses our community has seen recently.”
Tylor was a sporty 15-year-old who really liked making people smile. He enjoyed listening to flute music and was always willing to be a listening ear for his friends, but when he needed help himself, maybe Tylor didn’t know that he had other options.
“My daughter McKenzie and I would ask ourselves what we would do to save him if we could go back in time,” said General. “Y’know – maybe we could have taken him away from that place, or told him not to go out that night – but when it came down to it we knew that that may not have stopped him.”
Since then, General developed a system which she calls a ‘pre-prevention’ system, called HOPE. The idea is that someone thinking suicidal thoughts would carry around – or memorize – contact information for up to 10 individuals they can trust and rely on for help when they’re at their lowest point.
Those people could be called at any time of day and would hopefully be able to let the suffering individual know that their lives are worth living.
Those without depression might think it’s easy to stop someone who is in emotional distress from thinking suicidal thoughts, but it’s not.
“Being trained in suicide prevention, I know that one of the biggest things we can do for each other is to first listen to someone’s reasons for dying,” said Jodielynn Harrison, a guest at the Rekindling Our Fires event. “When people are overwhelmed and feeling depressed, they need to purge their reasons for dying before they can think about their reasons for living.”
Harrison said that sometimes the hardest things listeners can do is just that – listen.
“That’s the hardest thing for listeners and supporters because we always want to talk about the reasons for living, but what we have to do is first listen to those reasons for dying so that person is able to come back to the conversation about reasons to live.”
That was the purpose behind the event, to get people talking and spending quality time together.
‘We want to strengthen family ties and give people an opportunity to do things together,” said Hill. “Sometimes you can live in the same house as a family member but still the connection is missing and we wanted to help people talk about their issues in a fun environment.
That’s the whole purpose of this group – for people not to feel alone anymore,” said Hill.