Diocesan gift will support Suicide Prevention Program

A $100,000 grant from the Diocese of Toronto will expand suicide prevention work in Canada’s north. This gift, reflecting a portion of sales from the diocese’s surplus properties, was presented to the Suicide Prevention Program of the Council of the North, the Anglican Church of Canada’s ten northern dioceses.

Families learn about suicide prevention at a workshop in Moose Factory, Ont. COURTESY OF THE SUICIDE PREVENTION PROGRAM
Families learn about suicide prevention at a workshop in Moose Factory, Ont. COURTESY OF THE SUICIDE PREVENTION PROGRAM

“What is most gratifying about the Suicide Prevention Program is the way Anglicans right across the country are supporting this work,” said Archbishop David Ashdown, metropolitan of Rupert’s Land and chair of the Council of the North. “The Diocese of Toronto is actively engaged and this is a significant gift.”

Archbishop Ashdown said the grant will help develop and implement suicide prevention strategies in northern communities.

The Suicide Prevention Program does not have a “one size fits all” approach but instead helps communities implement solutions that fit their culture, history, and geography. This could include online training for frontline workers or large-scale prevention strategies.

Since its start in 2009, the Suicide Prevention Program has grown through several creative influxes of cash. The original seed funding of $95,000 came from the Amazing Grace Project, where Canadian Anglicans sang “Amazing Grace” for a national documentary and donated toonies to ministry in northern Canada.

This grant from the Diocese of Toronto is a different outpouring of generosity: a tithe from their Ministry Allocation Fund.

In 2009, the diocese decided that 10% of the funds that go into the Ministry Allocation Fund from the sale of surplus property would be given to innovative projects in the wider church.

Toronto bishops decided to support the Suicide Prevention Program after hearing a presentation from the program’s coordinator, Cynthia Patterson.

“It became a concern as to what was happening with the high suicide rates among our Aboriginal brothers and sisters,” explained Archdeacon Peter Fenty, archdeacon of York and executive officer to the bishop of Toronto.

“The gospel imperative certainly speaks to us about loving our neighbours as ourselves,” he said. “This is a very tangible way in which we manifest that love for God and love for others in their time of need.”

Through the Ministry Allocation Fund, the diocese has supported projects including the rebuilding of St. Jude’s cathedral in the Diocese of the Arctic; earthquake relief in the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand; and a diocesan centre in the newly formed Diocese of Wiawso, Ghana.

Archbishop Ashdown notes that the problem of suicide in northern Canada has been getting more national attention, thanks in part to the work of the Suicide Prevention Program.

Suicide rates in First Nations communities are twice the Canadian average. First Nations youth have a suicide rate five to seven times higher than the national average. Among Inuit youth, this rate is 11 times the average.

Clergy are often among the first to respond to suicides in their communities, said Archbishop Ashdown. The Suicide Prevention Program helps equip these frontline workers and reposition the church as a resource for the community.

“I hope we’re starting to provide through the church safe avenues where people can tell their stories, have their stories heard and respected, and have somebody stand with the victims as they move forward,” he said.

“I think it’s important that we help build the church as a safe place.”

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