AFN marks World Suicide Prevention Day by focusing on ‘Culture for Life’

OTTAWA, Sept. 8, 2017 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde will mark World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 by focusing on culture as a way to promote life and wellness, shifting the focus from ‘suicide prevention’ to ‘life promotion.’ Part of this effort involves a social media campaign called ‘Culture for Life‘, encouraging First Nations youth to share how they are connecting to their culture.

“As First Nations people, we have endured a great deal but through this long history our cultures, spirituality and the knowledge of our Elders have sustained us with strength, guidance and healing,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “We are all on the journey to wellness together, rebuilding the foundation of spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. Let’s support our languages, let’s support our traditions and let’s support one another in connecting to our cultures.”

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, chair of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Health said that many First Nation leaders are working to eliminate suicide in their communities, difficult work that requires an “all of government” approach, and an “all of community” effort.

“Reaching into our communities, encouraging our people to reach out when they need it most is Life Promotion in action,” said Regional Chief Day. “The more that we can create opportunity, safety and security in our communities, the more our people will feel hope and the more our people will choose life. Our greatest gains in saving lives will be made by embracing our cultures, our languages and by connecting to the life-essence of the land.” 

This year, AFN partnered with Thunderbird Partnership Foundation and First Peoples Wellness Circle to promote ‘Culture for Life’, a social media campaign for First Nations youth that encouraged them to highlight the strength that is gained through culture. First Nations youth were asked to send pictures, stories or videos in advance of September 10 to participate describing how they use culture to promote wellness and life. All submissions can be viewed at the website.

Carol Hopkins, Executive Director of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation said, “What the Creator gave to us in the beginning as First Nations was given forever and all time – our languages, cultures, and Indigenous knowledge are the foundation of what gives us hope for tomorrow, a sense of belonging within the world, meaning for life, and purpose for what we do. It’s up to all of us to ensure youth have access to all that will give them hope, belonging, meaning and purpose.”

Dr. Brenda M Restoule, Chair of the First Peoples Wellness Circle stated, “The strength and resiliency of First Nations people is within our culture, our languages and our worldview. Our cultural practices, teaching and ceremonies all hold the truths to living a good life – ‘mino-biimadzawin’. When we connect to our culture we connect to the knowledge of our ancestors. As family and community we all have a responsibility to support youth to connect, connect with their gifts, their strengths, their knowledge, their culture. When they have this they have hope, belonging, meaning and purpose – keys to wellness.”

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

The Thunderbird Partnership Foundation is a national organization representing First Nations in Canada in mental wellness.  Follow Thunderbird on Twitter @ThunderbirdPF

First Peoples Wellness Circle is a national organization in Canada representing First Peoples in mental wellness. Follow First Peoples on Twitter @FPWellnessC

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