Knowing when someone is contemplating suicide and how to talk with them about it can be life-saving, say organizers of a suicide prevention workshop in Yellowknife.
Workshop organizer Cheryl Fountain, who has a background in social work, called suicide a "permanent solution to a temporary problem" as she prepared for Saturday's four-and-a-half-hour Safetalk workshop.
The workshop provides participants aged 15 and up with tools to recognize the signs of people contemplating suicide, and ways of speaking to them. These are skills Fountain said all people should have, not just those in "helping professional" roles.
"A lot of times people who want to kill themselves don't get to that helping professional stage," said Fountain. "They're usually among the people they love, or isolated."
Anyone in the North is at a higher risk, Fountain believes, due to the lack of sunlight and the "isolating cold."
Politicians at the territorial and federal level have recognized suicide as a "critical issue" for the Northwest Territories. Data collected by the NWT Bureau of Statistics shows an average of eight or nine deaths by suicide per year in the territory for the past 17 years. In 2017, the last year for which data is available, there were six suicides. In some years, the number of lives lost has reached as many as 12.
Suicide rates in some areas of the NWT are as high as Nunavut, health minister Glen Abernethy said last year.
Those who take part in the $30 workshop become so-called "Alert Helpers" and receive a certificate. Saturday's session runs from 1pm to 4:30pm, with registration through Fountain by email or at 867-445-7660.
Anyone affected by the subject matter of this report can receive immediate and confidential help. Call the NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844 or Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. Additional community resources can be found by opening this document.