‘Come out and join us’: Organizers prepare for suicide awareness walk

Julia Peterson

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Jude Ratt wants more people in Saskatchewan to talk about suicide.

“Suicide is not a taboo thing to talk about,” he said. “I’d like people to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we can address it. And the more people we can help, the better.”

That’s why Ratt is helping coordinate the sixth annual suicide awareness walk from Prince Albert to Stanley Mission.

Walkers expect to set off from P.A. on Friday morning and spend the next seven days making the trek north, more than 300 kilometres.

In past years, Ratt said there has usually been a group of seven to 10 walkers who cover the full distance on foot, but people can join for a day or a few hours.

“Anybody can join at any time,” he said. “We’re encouraging people to come out. I’d like to extend an open invitation for anybody to come out and join us, whenever they have time.”

The annual walk began as an effort by a group of parents who had lost children to suicide, including Ratt’s sister.

“They just wanted to raise awareness and help people realize that you’re never alone,” Ratt said. “There’s always a place to go to and people to talk to, and suicide is not the only way out of a situation.”

He said these past few years have been particularly challenging for many people’s mental health, as the risk and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll.

“We’re working a little bit extra hard this year to try and raise awareness,” he said. “We’ve actually gone to the legislative assembly to try and persuade the Sask. Party to form a bipartisan committee to address suicide, as we don’t believe the Pillars of Life is adequate for dealing with the suicide epidemic.

“As it stands now, nothing is changing. Nothing’s improving.”

This year’s walk is also deeply personal to Ratt, whose daughter died by suicide in December. He said his daughter, who left behind four children, was cherished and beloved by those who knew her.

“We would hate to see other people go through what we have gone through, my wife and I,” he said.

As he covers the distance between Prince Albert and Stanley Mission, he will remember her, and other loved ones, lost to suicide.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact: Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566), Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service (306-933-6200), Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit (306-764-1011), Regina Mobile Crisis Services (306-525-5333) or the Hope for Wellness Help Line, which provides culturally competent crisis intervention counselling support for Indigenous peoples at (1-855-242-3310)

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