18 faith leaders have attached their names to the statement released on World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, calling upon the Government of Saskatchewan to establish a comprehensive and effective suicide prevention strategy. (Please download a PDF copy of the statement here.)
“Across all religious and theological distinctions, a shared understanding that the Creator has given us the precious gift of life establishes a global ethic that connects all people of faith,” says the interfaith statement.
“Our response to the divine gift of life compels us to work for the preservation of life in all its wonder, beauty, and diversity. We share a collective responsibility to care for those who are struggling, to offer hope and support, and to work for a society in which all can flourish. “
The statement indicates that the attention of the leaders has been drawn to the urgency of suicide prevention in Saskatchewan by the recent Walking with Our Angels vigil by Tristen Durocher underway at Wascana Park, Regina.
Research in suicide prevention points to the need for all sectors of society to be engaged in suicide prevention, including government, faith communities, social services, health care, education, justice, and corrections, note the faith leaders.
“As leaders of faith communities in Saskatchewan, we call upon our faith communities, the Government of Saskatchewan, and all sectors of our society to work together to establish a comprehensive and effective suicide prevention strategy. This could include but is not limited to legislation, policy, and programs that address common risk factors for suicide, that educate and create awareness of suicide risk, and that build local capacity to address the needs of youth, young adults, and Indigenous people within our communities.”
The statement shares statistics revealing that some 144 people die by suicide every year in Saskatchewan, with suicide being the second leading cause of death for youth between 15 and 24 years and the leading cause of death in northern Saskatchewan for people between the ages of 10 and 49 years.
“First Nations, Métis, and Inuit have considerably higher rates of suicide, especially among youth. Youth that identify as LGBTQ experience thoughts of suicide or suicide-related behaviour more frequently than their peers.”
The faith leaders’ statement notes that the damage inflicted by suicide is extensive. “For every death by suicide, there are an additional five people hospitalized for self-inflicted injury, 25 to 30 people who attempt suicide, and seven to 10 friends, family or acquaintances who are severely affected by the loss. Survivors of suicide and those close to them are at significantly elevated risk of suicide.”
“The goals of this Interfaith Statement are to express our support for people and communities struggling with suicide, to invite our faith communities to pray and work for a solution to the epidemic of suicide among Indigenous and youth in Saskatchewan, and to call upon all sectors to work together to enact a comprehensive and long-term suicide prevention strategy.”
The 18 faith leaders that endorsed the statement are:
Most Rev. Bryan Bayda, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon
Most Rev. Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Regina
Most Rev. Murray Chatlain, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas
Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz, Saskatoon Unitarians
Rev. Tricia Gerhard, Executive Chairperson, Living Skies Regional Council, United Church of Canada
Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen, Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon
The Rt. Revd. Adam Halkett, Bishop of Missinippi, Anglican Church of Canada
Mr. Spencer Hanson, Moderator, Synod of Saskatchewan, Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Rt. Revd. Rob Hardwick, Bishop of Qu’Appelle, Anglican Church of Canada
Rt. Rev. Christopher Harper, Bishop of Saskatoon, Anglican Church of Canada
Bishop Sid Haugen, Saskatchewan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Rt. Revd. Michael Hawkins, Bishop of Saskatchewan,Anglican Church of Canada
Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky, Congregation Agudas Israel, Saskatoon
Imam Mohamed Masloh, Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Regina)
Fr. Jakob Palm, Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church, Saskatoon
Rabbi Jeremy Parnes, Beth Jacob Synagogue, Regina
Edward Robertson, Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Regina
Most Rev. Albert Thévenot, Roman Catholic Bishop of Prince Albert