Celebration of Life Gathering Raises Suicide Prevention Awareness
On Saturday, September 17, 2016, more than two dozen Native youth and adults gathered at Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Arizona, for a special evening of celebrating life. The Celebration of Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Event was led by UNITY youth leader Julian Juan (Tohono O’odham), and highlighted UNITY Executive Committee Male Co-President, Hamilton Seymour (Nooksack Indian Tribe & Chemanius First Nation), as well as the UNITY fire and a remembrance walk.
“The main purpose behind the event was to raise awareness around the epidemic suicide and suicide prevention. Right now the Tohono O’odham Nation’s suicide prevention project under Behavioral Health is operated primarily from grant money and is staffed by one person to cover our entire tribe. Besides raising awareness, we wanted to show support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide and to engage in dialogue to help create solutions and be proactive, instead of waiting until we lose more members to suicide,” said Julian Juan of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
In attendance were youth representing Onk Akimel O’odham, Navajo, White Mountain Apache, Colorado River Indian Tribes/Navajo, Bishop Paiute – California, Shoshone Paiute – Nevada, and Nooksack Indian Tribe – Washington State. The event went was also accompanied by a photo challenge that sparked inspiring stories of Native people from across the country. Stories can be found by searching #IwillLive on Facebook and Instagram.
The event was sponsored and supported by several organizations and groups including the Tohono O’odham Nation Youth Council, United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, Desert Diamond Casino, WeRNative, Sells Recreation Center, Tohono O’odham Community College, and the Tohono O’odham Nation Suicide Prevention Program.