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Sheshatshiu holding suicide prevention conference

Eugene Hart, chief of Sheshatshiu, spoke publicly for the first time about how suicide has affected his family, and how the community is trying to decrease the staggering number of deaths by suicide.
Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation Chief Eugene Hart has had his life impacted by suicide.. - Juanita Mercer

Former NHLer Jordin Tootoo one of the guest speakers

Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation is hosting its second annual Ishpitentimun-Suicide Prevention Conference to take place in the community Jan. 21-25.

Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation Chief Eugene Hart said the conference is open to anyone who’d like to attend – for an hour, a day or for the full conference.

“They don’t have to be from Sheshatshiu, everyone is welcome,” he said.

Hart is well aware of how suicide impacts families and communities. His sister and 16-year-old nephew both died by suicide.

Hart was a keynote speaker at a national suicide convention in St. John’s in 2018 where he told his story as a way of helping others.

“It takes a while to come out of your shell and to talk about suicide openly,” he said. “It’s a lot to go through, personally, and that’s where I talked about it for the first time.”

Training and workshops at the conference in Sheshatshiu will include a variety of topics ranging from mental health first aid to one-on-one counselling; from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) to applied suicide intervention skills training (ASIST).

Guest speaker

Former professional hockey player Jordin Tootoo, who grew up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is among the conference’s guest speakers. He will open the conference and participate in the FASD session.

The first Inuk to play in the NHL, Tootoo played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils.

In a Tweet on Oct. 19, 2018, Tootoo announced that, after 220 regular season games with the (Brandon, Manitoba) Wheat Kings and 723 games in the NHL, he had decided to retire from the NHL to focus on giving back to the Indigenous community.

In his book All the Way: My Life on Ice (with Stephen Brunt), Tootoo writes about his struggles and triumphs and about the death of his 22-year-old brother, Terence, who died by suicide in 2002.

In addition to participating in the conference, Tootoo will also take to the ice with some young hockey players.

“We are bringing (Tootoo) in for the suicide conference but he’s going to be visiting other communities as well,” Hart said. “I think it’s going to help people hearing what he’s been through and what he’s accomplished.”

For more information on the conference visit Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation on Facebook.

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