Published on January 3rd, 2014 | from CAMH
Power in Hope
By Dr. Catherine Zahn, President & CEO of CAMH
Sometimes, a champion emerges from an unexpected place and points out a pathway to a hopeful solution in the fact of a seeming insoluble problem.
Problem – deaths from suicide in Aboriginal communities. Champion – Laura Eggerston.
Laura is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. Following the death by suicide of two of her daughter’s Ojibway half-sisters, at ages 25 and 19, she made a proposal to the Michener Awards Foundation and received a grant “to tell the stories of young people and communities in crisis, and to explore public policy approaches that could help us stem this tide.” In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Bob Rae also shed light on the devastating impact of suicide, in Aboriginal communities and beyond, and reminds us that “suicide is as much a societal as a personal tragedy”.
Laura’s investigative reporting is now published in a four part series in the Canadian Medical Association Journal from July to October 2013. In it, she writes about the stunning incidence of death by suicide in Nunavut at 10 times the rate in Canada – for young men ages 15 to 24, at 50 times the national rate.
She combines a scholarly review of the recent McGill study by Jack Hicks and Dr. Eduardo Chachamovich with on-site interviews of youngsters contemplating suicide and families of those who tragically succeeded. She acknowledges history and emphasizes the roles of childhood sexual, emotional and physical abuse. The stories told by the abuse victims and the surviving family members are raw and emotionally explosive.
Laura also searches out stories of survival, mutual assistance and an organized approach to change that could be transformational. I learned of the Government of Nunavut’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan, and about the ongoing implementation and early successes of on-the-ground programs with snappy names like ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and safeTALK – education and training programs adapted specifically for First Nations communities.
I’m making it my business to get to know Laura Eggerston, and understand how I can personally support her in encouraging our government to carry on, study and expand these programs.