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Scott Chishom, Founder of the Collateral Damage Project, and Anna Betty Achneepineskum, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, stand next to a photo and story of Margaret Hajdinjak on Friday. The photo, and several others in the Collateral Damage Project, will be displayed at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre for 10 days. (Submitted) A travelling photographic gallery of portraits of people left behind by a loved one’s suicide is visiting Thunder Bay’s hospital.

The Collateral Damage Project is an initiative of Thunder Bay’s Scott Chisholm. The goal of the project is to address stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, promote dialogue and advocate for mental health training.

And now, a travelling gallery that includes portraits — captured by Chisholm — of individuals who were "left behind" by a loved one’s suicide, is on display at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) for 10 days.

The display was launched Friday, two days before World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, Sept. 10, the TBRHSC said in a media release, with hopes that the photographs will encourage people to talk about mental health and suicide. Starting a dialogue

"Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death," Chisholm said in a media release. "I believe in the healing and preventative power of story, and that’s what this gallery represents. I hope that people will come in and view the portraits and stories of loved ones who have been left behind. Perhaps it will start a dialogue with a co-worker, friend, neighbour or family member. Perhaps it could help make a difference."

One of the subjects in the gallery is Margaret Hajdinjak, who became a patient family advisor (PFA) at the TBRHSC after losing her son Steven to suicide eight years ago.

"Mental health affects so many people, and you can’t always tell who is suffering from thoughts of suicide," Hajdinjak said. "I became a PFA so that my experiences can lead to improvements for other patients and families who may be struggling with mental health issues.

"It’s important to ensure that help is available in a safe and stigma-free environment for those who need it."

Another of the attendees at Friday’s unveiling was Anna Betty Achneepineskum, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, who said mental health services and suicide prevention are a priority for Indigenous communities. High rates of suicide in Indigenous communities

"Many of our First Nation communities suffer disproportionally high rates of suicide, especially amongst our youth, and lack access to adequate mental health services," she said. "It is important that our members receive compassionate care when transferred to regional health care facilities.

The photographs are on display throughout the TBRHSC.

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