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COMMENT





Walk for suicide prevention
By BRET HART
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The other day I got a call from my friend Hal Eagletail. He wanted me to take part in an Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Walk on the Tsuu T'ina Reserve.

I felt a personal need to be there, having lost a brother-in-law, who was half-Native, to suicide a decade ago.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Walk involves a group of First Nation's youth walkers and their support staff and volunteers who last year walked from Nanaimo, B.C., to Ottawa.

Their objective was to raise awareness about the tragic problem of youth suicide on reserves and in native communities across Canada.

On some reserves, there has been a 400% increase in the suicide rate between 1986 and 1995.

Yesterday, I found myself at the administration building on the Tsuu T'ina Reserve signing autographs for about 100 bright-eyed, smiling kids who seemed to understand the message their future can be anything they want it to be.

Native youths who survived suicide attempts report they made the attempt because they felt they had no future. A teenage boy told me the real problem is directly related to alcohol abuse. So, it seems to me, it's not only a case of suicide awareness but increased awareness and funding for alcohol education, intervention and rehab programs. Native role models, such as former Hitmen hockey player Brent Dodginghorse and NHLer Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators, have done a lot to inspire hope, especially in Nunavut -- where Native suicide rates are seven times the national average.

In my travels all over the world, people always tell me they respect the way we Canadians face our problems head-on and that we have a distinctly Canadian way of finding straight-forward, practical solutions.

Why then, might I ask, do most of us seem to have our heads buried in the sand when it comes to this problem of epidemic proportions?

For more information on the event, go to www.theyouthsuicidepreventionwalk.com.