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Focus now on celebrating life

A large crowd came out in support of the fifth annual Suicide Prevention Walk in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 28.

The annual event is held in memory of Terence Tootoo.

Rose Tootoo prepares to lead the large crowd gathered for the fifth annual Suicide Prevention Walk in memory of Terence Tootoo around Williamson Lake and back to the family home in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 28, 2018. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The crowd of people met at the Tootoo family home, walked around Williamson Lake to raise awareness of suicide prevention in Rankin, and then returned to the family home for a discussion and light refreshments.

Terence’s dad, Barney, said his wife, Rose, puts a good deal of work into the event every year.

Barney said it’s devastating that so many people in the Kivalliq have lost someone they love to suicide.

But it’s 100 per cent better to bring it out in the open than it is to keep it locked behind closed doors, he said.

“I know a lot of guys who have lost loved ones to suicide and they don’t want to talk about it, but there’s no sense keeping it bottled inside because it’s just going to build and build until it takes over your life in one way or another,” he said. “When it’s bottled up like that – in the end you start thinking about it yourself.”

Barney said he hopes the Suicide Prevention Walk also helps to keep the topic highly visible in the region, and reminds the Government of Nunavut that a lot more has to be done, especially in the area of mental health.

He said it was nice to see this year’s walk being a lot bigger than the one held the previous year.

“I think the word’s getting out a little more about the walk every year because so many people continue to be touched by suicide,” said Barney. “We even had a number of people we didn’t know come to this year’s walk, and they all came inside and chatted a bit and that was really nice. We had some folks help out too, with our local kids’ soccer coach Paul Stroeder working the barbecue for us. It’s people like that you really want to keep in town here, because without people like Paul I don’t know what a lot of these kids in the soccer program would do.”

Barney said it’s important to keep events like the Suicide Prevention Walk and the annual Terence Tootoo Memorial hockey tournament held in memory of his son going in the community.

He said other communities host similar events for the same reason, and they all seem to be getting a little bigger each year.

“People really seem to want to get together and talk now, which is nice.

“In some ways, hosting these events is hard on all of us in the family, especially Rose, but I’m pretty sure suicide has touched every family in the Kivalliq, so we’re not alone in that regard, you know.

“My own opinion is that it’s good these events are getting people to come together, bringing this subject out in the open, and having it talked about it instead of trying to hold everything inside.”

Barney's son, NHL hockey player Jordin, also does a great deal to promote suicide awareness during his travels, and he encourages kids across Nunavut to love life and follow their dreams, he said.

“Jordin delivers a positive message everywhere he goes, and I’m so proud of the work he does bringing this out in the open to be talked about.

“He lets people know that there is help out there, and there are people out there who really care.

“My mom used to tell me that we have to keep moving on because, if we stop, we’ll get left behind and have a hard time catching-up again, if at all.

“So, we try to let bygones be bygones as much as we can, but it’s always in the back of our minds.”