SIX NATIONS — Calls to the Six Nations Crisis Line have increased exponentially since the worldwide Covid pandemic was declared in March 2020 and Six Nations Health Promotions wants to encourage people to seek help if they are experiencing suicidal ideation as the community rides the fourth wave of the pandemic.
Jade Johnson, Life Promotion Coordinator with Six Nations Health Promotions, said there have been increased calls to the Crisis Line, not just because of the pandemic but also the repeated discovery of children’s remains at former residential schools across the country beginning this past May.
“Mental health has been suffering around the world for a lot of people. It was reported that the Six Nations Crisis Line was receiving increased calls this past year. We’re lucky on this reserve to have as many resources as we do. I know it’s hard to reach out.”
The event is held every year on World Suicide Prevention Day. When the event first started about eight years ago, it was more of a memorial event, with a candlelight vigil for those who died by suicide, and it has since morphed into a “colour run” – an event where packets of coloured powder are thrown at runners in a fun attempt to bring laughter and smiles to participants.
And there were plenty of smiles and laughter during the beautiful late summer evening run at the Ohsweken track field last Friday night, with the sun casting a happy glow on participants and the crisp evening air creating the perfect atmosphere for an outdoor event celebrating life.
Before Covid, it was better attended, said Johnson, and local services would set up informational booths but to keep crowds down, organizers kept the event low-key this year and encouraged people to wear masks if they were not with people from their immediate household.
“It’s kind of sad this year,” said Johnson, but acknowledged the evening felt bittersweet because people still came out to enjoy each other’s company.
“It’s a gorgeous day. We couldn’t have it at all last year.”
Participants got swag bags with information about suicide, signs for loved ones to watch for, and where to get help, locally and nationally.
Johnson praised the national organization, Kids Help Phone, and encouraged youth to give them a call if they need someone to talk to.
“This event, it’s supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be joyous, it’s about promoting life. We’re promoting hope, meaning, purpose. People always have a good time here.”
When it comes to the pandemic, Johnson encourages people to care for themselves by getting out, getting active, trying new things, and learning new skills.
The community is currently riding out the fourth wave of the pandemic, with a recent spike in cases, but schools remain open and restrictions remain relatively calm when it comes to group gatherings.