High school students in Pimicikamak are doing what they can to support each other after losing three students to suicide this year.

There have been six suicide deaths since Dec. 12 in the northern First Nation, also known as Cross Lake, more than 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The deaths prompted Pimicikamak Chief Shirley Robinson to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday.

"It's been a big tragedy for us and it's taking a lot out of us," said Morrison Ross, the student council president.

Ross, 19, has given his cellphone number to countless students and encourages them to call him at any hour.

"I'm scared to lose more youth," he said.


Student council president Morrison Ross (left) and Nakeisha McDonald, a Grade 11 student, say many parents don't understand why their kids may have suicidal thoughts. (Jillian Taylor/CBC)

Staff were given suicide prevention training on Tuesday and Wednesday to help them look for warning signs and teach them how to safely intervene.

"It teaches you how to react to suicide and how to help, how to talk to students who are thinking of suicide," said Nakeisha McDonald, a Grade 11 student who also took the training.

She also held a sharing circle on Wednesday after school. Six students and four teachers showed up.

'They don't need a crisis centre. All they need is parents to love them unconditionally' - Morrison Ross

"I thought it would fail, but everyone started opening up," she said. "We had crying and they even talked about suicide."

McDonald said by the end of the sharing circle, the group talked three teens out of suicide. This is the first of many sharing circles to come, she said.

She thinks more after school activities are needed to keep young people busy. McDonald and Ross both agree a community centre is necessary but the youth can't wait that long.

"They don't need a crisis centre. All they need is parents to love them unconditionally," said Ross.

Many parents don't understand why their kids may have suicidal thoughts, he said. He recommends if kids do express such thoughts, tell them they're loved.

The school is a safe place for kids, but they need the same support at home, he said.

There have been mental health support workers in the high school for two weeks. Additional crisis workers are expected now that a state of emergency has been called.

Suicide help in Manitoba