Manitou resident to educate on suicide prevention

FORT FRANCES—After attending a national youth forum on suicide prevention in Alliston, Ont. last month, Ian McGinnis, a research historian for Rainy River First Nations, learned he was selected to join a team to educate First Nations’ communities on the issue.
“It is really important to get the message out there,” he stressed Monday. “It’s a really good feeling to be a part of it.”
McGinnis, along with about 15 others from across Canada, will make up the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy team for the year—visiting different locations once a month.
“I’ll be traveling all over the country and we’re going to try to target isolated First Nations communities,” he explained, noting the group will be heading to The Pas, Man. later this month.
He’s the only team member from Treaty #3.
There was a strict selection process in order for McGinnis to become a part of the team. For instance, he had to write a 3,000-word essay and provide several references.
“I’m hoping to make a difference—that’s the plan,” he remarked. “But it is a tough topic to talk about.”
He said preventing youth suicide is an issue close to his heart, especially after losing a cousin to suicide just last month.
Ironically, McGinnis already was involved in the process to join the suicide prevention strategy team when his cousin took her life. Three days later, he learned he had been selected.
“So it has a lot of meaning,” he noted.
“Also, growing up I heard a lot of friends talking about [suicide]. I wanted to understand. . . . They think they are helpless,” he stressed.
McGinnis will be providing education on the issue to others through a group presentation.
He explained the team members are keeping in touch by phone calls and e-mails right now—already making plans for the upcoming presentations.
He’ll specifically speak on the topic “Motivation Through Sport,” offering his thoughts and personal experiences.
“I’m going to talk about the pressures youth feel while participating in sports—that it’s okay to feel the pressure,” he remarked, adding if they are away from home, they often feel homesick.
“They want to come home, but we’ll show them how they can deal with it and stick it out.”
McGinnis hopes they can get to the root issues of suicide while participating in the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy.
“Sexual abuse, neglect, drugs, and alcohol play a big role in it,” he remarked, noting spiritual genocide also is a problem.
“It’s a a cycle we’re trying to tackle,” he stressed.
In addition, McGinnis said he expects to see an increase in youth activities and initiatives within Rainy River First Nations this year, with the possibility of holding a youth conference there sometime in the future.
As well, former NHL player Gino Odjick, who now spends time working with youth, is set to attend the 37th-annual fish fry at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre on May 18.
“I met him and told him about the fish fry and he was really interested in coming,” McGinnis enthused, adding he hopes it will be a great event with lots of activities to engage youth.

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