Young people in Pimicikamak have banded together, taking action against the suicide crisis rocking their northern first nation.

Pimicikamak fundraiser

Laurell McKay is one of the youth volunteers running a fundraiser to send 45 teens to Thompson to get suicide prevention training. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)

"I am not going to give up on these kids," said Mervin McLeod. "I am not going to give up on my community, I want to be a leader to help the leaders, these kids are our leaders."

Mervin McLeod

Mervin McLoed started a youth group in Pimicikamak to show young people that suicide is not the answer. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)

McLeod said he was with the mother of three in her 30s the night before she killed herself.

He said she was having a hard time so he went to talk and listen. He said she wanted to help him with his group, Project STOP. 

"She promised to show up to meetings, to tell her kids to come and get help and I believed she broke that promise," said the 28-year-old.

McLeod said he turned his pain into something positive. On March 3, he applied for a gaming licence to start a raffle and bingo fundraiser and was approved that day.

He said all money raised will pay for 45 youth to attend a suicide prevention conference in Thompson in April. He said there, the young people will get a training and a certificate in suicide prevention.

Laurell McKay

Laurell McKay said there is not enough support for young people in Pimicikamak. She said teens need more activities to keep them busy. (CBC)

"It's very important for them to have it so they can help amongst each other," said McLeod. "To come together and help each other to heal."

The fundraising goal is $20,000. McLeod said in two days, $1,700 was raised through raffle sales and corporate donations.

Laurell McKay volunteered to sell tickets because she knows what it's like to consider suicide. The 22-year-old said she came close last week.

"I felt like I wasn't wanted around here. I was told I was worthless. So I had had enough," she said through tears. "I thought, "Why be here when they think of me like that and no one wants me around?'"

McKay said she called her uncle and he picked her up right away. She said she is now feeling better, especially because she is volunteering for something positive for her community.

Youth helping youth

A new youth group has formed as a result of the fundraising efforts. It's called Y.O.U.T.H., for youth only understand the pain. 

Christian Bailey, 17, came up with the name.

"All these suicides have been affecting me. I lost four friends and one family member. It really hurts a lot."

Bailey was one of about a dozen young people who came together for the first time Wednesday evening. McLeod said the group sat together for five hours, sharing, crying, and building trust.

"They kept crying tears of joy and I kept telling them, 'We are here for you now. We are always going to be here. You just keep coming and we will get you help,'" said McLeod.

Theodra Thomas

Theodra Thomas, 18 years, is sharing her story with other youth; she says she attempted suicide twice this year. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)

Theodra Thomas shared her experience with suicide. She was close with the teenage boy who killed himself this year. She said she is now getting home schooled because she can't bear being in class without him.

"I seen him the day he killed himself. He came to me and gave me a big hug. That was the last time I seen him," said the 18-year-old.

Thomas said she tried to kill herself twice in February.

"I texted everyone on my contact list and told everyone I love them." She said her friend called the RCMP, who showed up at her house just in time.

"I thought if I killed myself,  will I feel this way still? Will I feel it over there wherever I go?" she said. 
"It was scary, it just seemed like suicide was the answer. But it wasn't."

Thomas said having this group around her is helping and she knows who she can turn to. She also said she is looking forward to the suicide prevention conference and getting her training.

"I just want to tell the youth all over not to run to suicide because it's not the answer."

Y.O.U.T.H. plans on meeting everyday for as long as needed to get the young people of Pimicikamak through the suicide crisis.


If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, these resources are available:​