One of the toughest and saddest situations to witness is the number of indigenous men who have chosen to end their lives because they could not bear the pain and loss any longer. R. Dale Walker of Cherokee decent, has been practicing as a Psychiatrist for many decades, and has supported communities who have suffered great losses due to suicide. One comment that he made that penetrates deeply to the heart of the matter is, “One of the most difficult things to hear is when the community says, ‘We can grieve no more. We’re cried out. We just can’t respond anymore to the problem,’” he said. “It really does have an impact.” This is an excerpt of an interview with Dr. Walker in Huffington Post in 2015.
What also saddens me is how many men are impacted by suicide. Why? Because men have been taught by our dominant culture not to ask for help. Men have been taught to figure things out for themselves. My response to this is: enough! It is time for all of us to tell me that they can ask for help; that they must ask for help because they deserve the support. Men need to know that there are other choices; they have more than one option to end the pain. One of those options includes talking with someone; getting it outside of themselves. Witnessing has been a very powerful part of indigenous culture for thousands of years. Now, with the massive increase in the use of technology, people tend to communicate with each other remotely rather than together, which elevates the level of isolation.
As an article in Canada’s CBC speaks to the importance of community in the healing process regarding suicide. It speaks to the importance of inclusion of youth in community cultural events and sports. By drawing these youth out into the community they are no longer isolated and their risk level declines significantly. It is also important to support community members in staying healthy and away from addictions. Again, it is about offering people an outlet and a path towards a constructive life, health and happiness; especially if they are coming from a background of abuse and neglect.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or having suicidal thoughts please reach out. You are not alone. Here are some resources.
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