THUNDER BAY – Aboriginal Now – One of the issues facing many Aboriginal communities is that of youth suicide. Sadly, many young Aboriginal young people take their own lives. The causes are often depression, and feeling that life is just not worth living. It is a message that many in both the Aboriginal community and beyond would like to address with a message of hope.
This is a story about a young man from the Attawapiskat First Nation and how he faced life, and the decisions he made. It illustrates the importance in the community within the families toward education, and toward building for the future. Maybe it demonstrates why youth in Attawapiskat fought so long, and so hard for a school?
On March 17th, it will mark the thirteenth anniversary of Kevin Hall’s birthday since the young man passed away.
Kevin was only 26 years of age when Hodgkin’s Lymphoma took his life. “My late son’s birthday is March 17th, on St. Patrick’s Day, he would be 39,” shares Theresa Okimaw-Hall, his mom. “He passed away on June 20th at the age of twenty-six leaving behind his wife Rachel, and his daughter, Lexus, along with his sister Lynn, mom and Elwood Hall, Kevin’s dad, along with his cousins, uncles, aunts, and his in-laws, the Kennedy family”.
Kevin’s story is one of a young man, who facing his death, chose to live his life to the fullest.
Kevin was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 22. Upon finding out he had this disease he wanted to quit university. Kevin was attending Laurentian University.
Theresa shares, “I said to him more than ever Kevin you will need to concentrate on your studies to take your mind of your illness. That is what he did and he completed his honour’s degree with honours”.
“Secondly, I said, One day Lexus will remember what you have accomplished even though you were ill and will follow your path of studies”.
“Kevin was also a defenseman with the Golden Bears hockey team from Timmins. His coach was Ken Sullivan, his lead player was Steve Sullivan both of Timmins. When Kevin was informed he was terminally ill in June 1998, he opted to take alternative therapy in Ottawa. In order to finance the therapy, I appealed to the public to help finance his treatments”.
“His coach organized a game in Timmins and also did a silent auction. Even his team donated their allowances. That one evening when the Golden Bears played in Timmins against the Espanola Eagles, it was a packed arena with standing room only”.
“As Kevin’s Mother I was asked to drop the puck in at the beginning of the game. I will never forget the generosity of the people, his team players and his coaches”.
Kevin’s battle against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was one that the young man could not win. Theresa says, “Kevin had a daughter and a wife and wanted to live for them but could not as the disease eventually took his life. Although it has been 13 years since his passing, my memories of him are still fresh and I miss him very much”.
“When I hear youth suicides among my people, I feel very sad and like to say to them…you have a choice to live, while people like Kevin did not have a choice. Please reach out to people when feeling desperation. This I would like to dedicate in memory of Kevin, my precious son”.
Theresa Okimaw-Hall plans to establish a scholarship in Kevin’s memory, which will be finalized with the legal process; and hopes that the message of his determination to fight for life can serve as an inspiration to people everywhere who are fighting depression.