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First Nations youth learn to put a new focus on suicide

A new pilot project is helping First Nations youth see suicide through a new lens.
Aboriginal youth from across Ontario met in Sudbury this week as part of a new pilot project run by several first nations groups. Organizers like Scott Chisholm (left) are hoping to combat the alarming rates of suicide in their communities. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

A new pilot project is helping First Nations youth see suicide through a new lens.

More than 20 First Nations youth living on- and off-reserve in Ontario came to Sudbury this week to take part in a two-day workshop.

Along with suicide prevention training, the young people were also taught photography skills.

They're given cameras, which they take back to their communities and use to photograph things that make their lives worth living.

“For most of these youth, they've been surrounded in suicide their whole lives,” said Scott Chisolm, who helped lead the photography workshop.

“So they're very familiar with it. But the dialogue and the language and the words aren't there. So it gives them those words.”

The two-day workshops have been held for the last two years in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and London.

It ... creates that conversation that is so critically needed- Scott Chisholm, workshop leader

Autumn Longepeter-Esquega of Thunder Bay is one of the people for which the workshop is designed to help.

Longpeter-Esquega's father committed suicide when she was six.

And not too long ago the 16-year-old stopped herself from doing the same.

She shakes as she studies a photo of a rock spray painted with the letters “RIP.” It’s a visual reminder of her father, she said.

"My dad keeps me going. I know that he wouldn't want me to just throw away my life. Cause I do have potential in my future.”

Chisholm said the workshop aims to get young people talking about suicide and teaches young people how to recognize the signs of suicide.

“It lets them know that asking about suicide won't cause it,” Chisholm said.

“It really breaks that myth, breaks that barrier, creates that conversation that is so critically needed."

The photos will be collected and displayed in an art exhibit later this year.

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