Nigel Bart, Artbeat Studio speaks at Suicide Prevention Forum

30 Pimicikamak leaders at suicide prevention forum in Thompson this week

Substitute teacher at event says youth in northern community now more confident, alert and supportive

CBC News | April 14, 2016

Pimicikamak youth arrived in Thompson, Man., on Wednesday for a suicide prevention forum. (Courtesy of Mervin McLeod)

Pimicikamak youth arrived in Thompson, Man., on Wednesday for a suicide prevention forum. (Courtesy of Mervin McLeod)

A Pimicikamak teacher who’s in Thompson, Man., this week to learn about suicide prevention says she sees positive change in the community a month after it declared a state of emergency over suicide deaths and attempts.

Angie McLeod, a substitute teacher, arrived in Thompson with 30 people from Pimicikamak on Wednesday for an extra training session ahead of the seventh Hope Forum on Thursday and Friday.

The session focused on how to recognize body language and conversations that could identify when someone might be contemplating suicide. She and the 10 others from Pimicikamak (Cross Lake First Nation) who attended the session also learned how to intervene.

“[I’m] learning strategies on how to deal with suicide in the community, how to understand people and [I’ll] bring that back to Cross Lake and to teach others how to be alert,” she said.

Pimicikamak declared a state of emergency in March after six community members, one of them off reserve, killed themselves over a three-month timespan. About 100 youth in the community were listed as at risk of suicide. The reserve has a population of about 5,800 people, Aboriginal Affairs says.

Pimicikamak has sent its community members to the Hope Forum in the past but never this many. This year the forum’s theme is Journeys to Recovery. About 330 people registered for the forum represent more than 26 communities.

Motivational speaker and musician Susan Aglukark from Nunavut will speak on Thursday. She will be joined by mental health advocate Nigel Bart, who founded Artbeat Studio in Winnipeg, which gives artists living with mental illness a space to work.

On Friday, a youth anti-stigma summit will aim to inspire youth to become leaders in their community. Last month community leaders from Pimicikamak raised money to send youth to attend the summit.

McLeod said she has seen a positive change in the northern Manitoba community in the past month.

“The younger people, they’re more self-confident. They’re more alert. They have an easier time talking about things that they’re struggling with. The peer support that they give each other is strong,” she said.

A spokesperson for the government of Canada confirmed therapists continue to provide support to the community. Federal and provincial leaders met with the community last month to discuss mental health and suicide prevention. The federal government also gave the community $654,000 last month towards mental health counselling and supports, the spokesperson said.

McLeod said she would like to see more parents going with their kids to activities, such as youth committee meetings where kids take part in sharing circles.

“There’s a lack of parent support there. They don’t come.… They need to be there in case it gets too much for them to handle,” she said.

McLeod said she’s feeling positive about the future of the community because youth are starting clubs.

“They’re talking a lot about plans and goals that are positive, and they’re always sending positive messages to other youth and inviting them. It’s just a matter of participating.” [hr]

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