Suicide prevention goal of 15th annual Red Road conference

Suicide prevention goal of 15th annual Red Road conference by Erin Oliver An average of one person kills themselves every 17.2 minutes in the U.S, according to 2001 data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, suicide and self-injury were among the leading causes of death for youth and adults under age 45 in 1999, according to the Health Canada First Nations Inuit Health Branch.

It is because of the prevalence of suicide, particularly among native individuals in the U.S. and Canada, that the 15th annual Red Road Gathering is currently underway at the Clay County 4-H Center Sept. 16-18, from 8 a.m. through the evening each day.

This year's conference is themed "prevention of suicide through life empowering opportunities."

Participation is free, as the conference is funded through private donations by Medicine Wheel Inc., various departments of The University of South Dakota, the South Dakota Division of Alcohol and Drugs, the Wase Wakpa community and individuals.

"We welcome you to this powerful spiritual gathering where we become more humane with our humanness by healing through feeling," said the Wase Wakpa community, which played a role in the evolution of the Red Road Gathering, on the official event Web site, located at "No matter who you are, what you have done, or what has been done to you, we are your relatives waiting for you to come home to a life of healing and wellness. Your short stay with us will always stay with you."

A suicide prevention model based upon the cangleska, or medicine wheel, will be discussed.

The model, developed by Gene Thin Elk, has four distinct quadrants with a panel of experts in each: therapeutic counseling support, spiritual religions support, front line services providers and survivors and family members support.

Resources surround individual empowerment in the center of the circle.

'The Red Road approach is holistic in concept and uses prayer as the basis of all healing," said Thin Elk, according to the official event Web site. "The traditions and values of the Native American people ensures balance by living ? cultural traditions through the Red Road. We utilize our ceremonies and belief systems to become whole once again, in balance, walking the sacred Red Road."

In addition to suicide prevention education,

healers from the U.S., Canada and around the world will offer an a variety of free services, including

acupuncture, acupressure, aroma therapy, homeopathy, Reiki, polarity therapy, massage, guided imagery, therapeutic touch and other services intended to heal.

Other events and services will include support groups, diabetes education, a health and fitness walk, nutrition information and cultural activities and ceremonies, as well as youth presentations and support.

Red Road Gathering's Kathy Husby said the conference is expecting about 300 individuals from around the country and world to attend.

The gathering started out extremely small and local, with approximately 20 people attending in its first year, Husby said.

"Now there is an international healing village, and several hundred attend," said Husby, who emphasized the growth of the conference.

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