Understanding the emotional trauma suicide leaves behind

SIX NATIONS – Positive steps are being made to address the cloud of suicide over Six Nations and New Credit with a workshop for the families and friend and those left behind after suicide.

Dorothy Russell-Paterson knows first hand the pain, guilt, grief, confusion, anger and helplessness of a mother who has lost a son to suicide. Her adult son Adam, who was 38 and seemed to have the world by the tail at the time, committed suicide not that long ago leaving her with all of those emotions and more to deal with.

“Friday, June 26th at Six Nations Polytechnic Institute, beginning at 1:30 pm, we are having a community workshop,” Paterson announced this week. “Our theme is, ‘Brightening the Spirit, Breaking the Silence – Understanding Suicide.’”

This experience and empathy for others in the same situation has caused her to reach out to help those left behind to get “through” it, not “over” it. “One never really gets ‘over’ it,” she says.

It’s the culmination of some years of work to put together a community group of volunteers with a mission to “reduce the stigma of suicide on the Six Nations community and surrounding area, and to help people find some hope for recovery after such deviating loss and the impact on their lives which drastically impacts their lives.”

The conference has been given a grant from the Anglican Healing Fund, which is under the umbrella of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Further funding was provided by Derek Miller’s Swinefest Fund with $2,075.

“The work has been more difficult than I anticipated,” says Russell-Paterson, “because people don’t come forward readily for various reasons. But without the support of family and good friends to keep us going towards some safe semblance of healing, or at least the beginning of that, we don’t often get to those places. That’s because of so many triggers within this ‘normal’ life you thought you had when it is suddenly turned upside down and you’ve got guilt, shame, sorrow and fear and always asking, ‘why’, which can stay with you forever.”

This initiative is not only for those who have lost someone due to suicide, but also for those parents and loved ones who may fear for a family member or for a friend’s  emotional state.

Coming in for the conference are recognized champions of grief management following suicide including Clinton Debogor is a PHD doctoral student whose work has involved issues around residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

Keynote speaker will be Ph.D Shaunessy M. Mckay, who, along with Roland D. Chrisjohn, co-authored the book, “Dying to Please You — Indigenous Suicide in Contemporary Canada.”

Although the book has not been officially released to date, there will be advance copies available at the conference.

Following an address by Mckay, there will be a panel for question and answers from the community. The event will conclude at 4:30 with a feast catered by Virginia General.

The conference is free, but one must register so organizers can prepare for whatever numbers plan to attend.

Dorothy Russell Patterson invites the community to visit the booth they will have up during Solidarity Day. For more information call 519-445-4204.

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