Conference encourages youth to ‘honour life, honour self and honour spirit’
LITTLE CURRENT—Manitoulin hosted a Suicide Prevention Youth Symposium last weekend, bringing together 120 youths from eight communities at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current to hear from numerous guest speakers and take part in workshops.
“I am happy to see all your beautiful faces here from all your wonderful communities,” said symposium organizer Natalie Neganegijig, a youth mental health worker with Nadmadwin Mental Health Clinic in Wikwemikong. “My heart is full of goodness and love and I am very grateful for all you attending. I look forward to the next couple of days of learning and new connections.”
The opening ceremonies included a prayer from Hope Osawamick and welcoming remarks from Wiikwemkoong Band Councillor Sylvia Recollet.
It was noted that there were representatives from each community present throughout the weekend if anyone needed to talk and the representatives were asked to stand and make their presence known.
The keynote speaker was Lena Recollet. The poet, singer-songwriter and actress is from Wikwemikong, but resides in Toronto.
Ms. Recollet shared her personal story about suicide, and her journey to how she became the strong, confident woman she is today.
“Twenty years ago I attempted suicide,” said Ms. Recollet, after warning youth that the story may be a trigger for others. “I felt a lot of shame and guilt—I didn’t want anyone to know.”
Ms. Recollet said that while she was attempting suicide, she was “woken up” to the sound of her family on the other side of the door.
“When I woke up in the hospital, I knew that I needed to forgive myself and one day share my story,” said Ms. Recollet.
She said that the feelings that led to her suicide attempt stemmed from an experience as a young child when a neighbour tried to sexually assault her and threatened her life when she escaped.
“For seven years I had to relive and retell my story,” she said. “I am 36-years-old and I realize now that moment impacted me—my insecurities that led to my depression.”
Ms. Recollet worked through her suicide attempt through creating a short film. Her poetry, spoken word and other artistic mediums were her outlet for her emotions.
Other speakers throughout the conference included: Debby Denard on Life Promotion; Curtis Kagigie, breakdancing; remarks from Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Pat Madahbee and Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare; Recollet Consulting, Suicide Talk; Geesohns Manitowabi, teachings on spirit; Jared Big Canoe; Bryden Kiwenzie, round dance and beats; and Sylvia Recollet, western door teachings.
“Overall the conference went really well,” said Ms. Neganegijig. “Our speakers have been supportive and brought good meaning to the youths’ lives. The youth have expressed that they have been happy with the topics and the presenters.”
Ms. Neganegijig said she wanted to organize the conference to bring awareness to the area about suicide “and let youth in the area know that people are here for them.”
“There is a lot of talk about what is happening in the fly-in, Northern communities, (concerning suicide), but it is happening here too, and I want our youth to know that they aren’t alone and that there are people available to help,” she added.
Ms. Naganegijig said that she hopes to organize a similar conference again in the future.