October has not been kind to La Ronge.
Following another tragic loss of young life, the community has banded together for their youth. In the last month, six young girls from northern Saskatchewan communities have taken their lives. They were all between the ages of 10 and 14.
A candlelight vigil Wednesday, organized by the students association of NORTEP-NORPAC, brought almost 250 people to the Kiskinwuhumatowin Grounds behind the post office.
“On Sunday, when we heard about the sixth suicide, it really hit home for us because it is a young girl from our home community,” said Amie Bell, president of the student association.
The air hung heavy around the park. Some in the gathering openly wept. Honour and prayer songs were sung for the six girls.
“You could feel the energy. Everyone was heavy hearted,” Bell said. “It’s very emotional.”
Bell asked the youth of La Ronge to stay strong, and to find someone they feel comfortable talking to if they find themselves in a bad place.
“We do come here to bring support and awareness to families and the community, but it also is a healing process because we have people here to talk to,” she said.
“There are support groups out there. There are people out there who care about you. We’re here to listen.”
April Chiefcalf, a faculty member from NORTEP-NORPAC who has lived in La Ronge for 15 years, said she hasn’t seen such a tragedy in all her years of living in northern Saskatchewan.
“Losing these girls has just been the final thing that we can take,” Chiefcalf said.
“It was good to see the community come out and support the families and acknowledge what’s happening and try to find ways to fix this.”
Chiefcalf said she’s seen many examples of communities coming together in the face of tragedy.
“We’ve been through a rough time the last few years. We’ve had the fires and the evacuations last year, the shooting in La Loche, and now this,” Chiefcalf said.
“There is a lot of despair and struggle going on, but people are very resilient and caring of each other.”
People experiencing suicidal thoughts, or who are in crisis, can contact the 24-hour Prince Albert Mobile Crisis unit at 306-764-1011, or the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310.
Warning signs of suicide include:
- Suicide threats
- Statements revealing a desire to die
- Previous suicide attempts
- Sudden changes in behaviour (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness)
- Depression (crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness)
- Final arrangements (such as giving away personal possessions)