chapter  12
14 Pages

Teamwork in Communities

Most of the work of suicide prevention must occur at the community level, where human relationships breathe life into public policy. (David Satcher, 2001, p. 2) Being a member of the CASP here has opened my eyes to see that we can all do a little bit to help someone. (Helen, elder and survivor from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, speaking at the plenary session of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Toronto, Oct. 27, 2006)

David Masecar, former president of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and tireless suicide prevention advocate, tells a poignant story about a small fly-in aboriginal community in northern Ontario in which eighteen people, most of them teenage girls, died by suicide over a two-year period (1998; personal communication, Oct. 29, 1997). The community was shattered by these traumatic losses, and local efforts at postvention response were overwhelmed by continuing tragedies. The method used by most of these young people (I am sorry to share this graphic detail, but it is necessary to the story; please skip the rest of this paragraph if you prefer) was to tie a cord around their necks, attach the other end to a closet rod and lean forward. However, “one of the crisis workers suggested . . . installing . . . ‘breakaway’ closet rods” (Masecar 1998, p. 251). So a group of local men set out with their tool boxes. They knocked on every door and installed breakaway rods-strong enough to hold clothing on hangers but not strong enough to bear the pressure of a human body without snapping-in every house.