Not Worth Living (Sun) Panel

Jesse Bering, Sheila Watt-Cloutier & Vanessa Lee

Why do Indigenous people kill themselves in such numbers? What do we know about suicide that can help us understand this? Can we overcome the tragedy of young people dying in a suicide epidemic?


Jesse Bering is an award-winning science writer. His "Bering in Mind" column at Scientific American was a 2010 Webby Award Honoree. Bering's first book, The Belief Instinct (2011), was included on the American Library Association's Top 25 Books of the Year. This was followed by a collection of essays--the critically acclaimed Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? (2012), and Perv (2013), a New York Times Editor's Choice. All three books have been translated into many different languages. An expert in psychology and religion, he began his career at the University of Arkansas, as an Assistant Professor of Psychology from 2002-2006. He then served as the Director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at the Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was a Reader in the School of History and Anthropology until 2011. Presently, he is Associate Professor of Science Communication at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His next book, on the science of suicidology, will be released in 2017.


Vanessa Lee, from the Wik and Meriam Nations, resides on the land of the Gadigal people. She is a social epidemiologist, educator, writer and public health/ health sciences researcher in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her area of expertise is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service delivery. Vanessa was the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Vice President of the Public Health Association of Australia for a period of four years where she contributed to significant changes in policies for Indigenous people. She is a director on the board for Suicide Prevention Australia.  Dr Lee chairs the Public Health Indigenous Leaders in Education Network and is on the executive board of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance. She holds expert advisory positions with Close the Gap Steering Committee, the International Group of Indigenous Health Measurement and the Sydney Centre of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics. All of the research, engagement and curriculum development that Vanessa is involved in are directed towards the overarching goal of improving the determinants of health, efficacy and linkages of services for better health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.



Sheila Watt-Cloutier currently resides in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (northern Quebec), and was raised traditionally in her early years before attending school in southern Canada and in Manitoba. Ms. Watt-Cloutier was an elected political spokesperson for Inuit for over a decade. She is the past Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the organization that represents internationally the 155,000 Inuit of Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Chukotka in the Far East of the Federation of Russia and was previously the President of ICC Canada. During the past several years, Ms. Watt-Cloutier has worked through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to defend Inuit human rights against the impacts of climate change. She has received many awards in recognition of her work. In November, 2015 she was one of 4 Laureates to receive “The Right Livelihood Award” considered the Nobel Alternative, awarded in the Parliament of Sweden. Her recently published book The Right To Be Cold has been shortlisted for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing and the Cobo emerging writer prize.

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