‘You matter’: Messages of hope for kids in crisis

Published 2019-12-10 17:49

Who to contact if you need help

WARNING: This story is about a very serious mental health issue that may be upsetting or difficult to read. If you or somebody you know is considering suicide, please contact Kids Help Phone or Crisis Services Canada right away.

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for some kids, especially those who are struggling with their mental health.

“Around this time, not everyone’s happy,” said Grade 3 student Rebecca Knelsen from M.J. Coldwell Elementary School in Regina.

She and her classmates spent two days making cards and Popsicle-stick snowflakes for the kids on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northwest Saskatchewan to show that they care.

The Cree community has declared a state of crisis following a number of youth suicides in recent months.

Suicide refers to the act of ending your own life.

Rebecca’s message? “We’re thinking about you lots and lots.”

Kids from M.J. Coldwell Elementary hold up handmade cards.

The Christmas cards from M.J. Coldwell Elementary School students include a mix of positive messages, from ‘You are special’ to ‘Hope you have a good day.’ (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Asking for help

Feeling sad from time to time is a natural part of life, said Dr. Rebecca Pillai Riddell, a clinical psychologist based in Toronto.

“However, if you feel sad or irritated almost all the time for a few weeks, have started to hurt yourself or have feelings that the future will never get any better for you, it is important to tell an adult who will listen.”

Pillai Riddell recommends talking to a parent, a teacher or a doctor.

“It may be hard to admit these feelings to an adult right away,” she said, so talking to somebody at Kids Help Phone or Crisis Services Canada can help you figure out the best way to get help.

Image of rubber bracelets with hashtag HopePact on them and the message Take the We Matter #HopePact with a link to wemattercampaign.org/hopepact/

This We Matter ad invites Indigenous youth across Canada to take the #HopePact and wear a red bracelet, as a reminder that ‘you’re worthy, you matter, you’re important,’ said national outreach manager Frances Elizabeth Moore. (Submitted by Frances Elizabeth Moore)

It will get better

“Remember that things will always get better,” Pillai Riddell said.

That kind of hopeful message is important for kids to hear, said Frances Elizabeth Moore, the operations and national outreach manager for a youth-focused, Indigenous-led organization called We Matter.

Her organization distributes red rubber bracelets to Indigenous kids across Canada and asks them to sign a “hope pact” when they put them on.

Every time they see that bracelet, they know “they’re not alone,” Moore said.

Moore, who is from Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec, said she doesn’t know any Indigenous person who hasn’t been touched by suicide. (Submitted by Frances Elizabeth Moore)

The numbers

Suicide rates are three times higher for Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people, according to Statistics Canada.

The rates are even higher for Indigenous youth.

“I don’t think that there’s any one Indigenous person that I know who hasn’t been touched by suicide in some way, shape or form,” said Moore, who’s from Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec.

Chyler Sewell, an Ambassador for Hope with We Matter, says healing isn’t easy, but it’s possible to recover from trauma. (Nadya Kwandibens/Red Works Photography)

Feeling the feels

Healing “is tough,” said one of We Matter’s Ambassadors for Hope, 17-year-old Chyler Sewell, in a video posted to the organization’s Facebook page.

Tough, but possible.

“You’ll get through whatever you’re going through,” said the Anishinaabe teen from the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “I believe in you.”

“I’ve been told tears are medicines and those feelings are medicines,” Chyler said. “So feel them.”

Important contacts

You can live chat with the counsellors at Kids Help Phone or text them at 686868.

The team at Crisis Services Canada is also available by phone any day or time, and by text every evening.

With files from Jessica Deer, Heidi Atter/CBC News