Pimicikamak hockey coach pleads for more youth programs to prevent suicide

A hockey coach in Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) says there needs to be more than hockey offered to youth after the community declared a state of emergency following six suicide deaths since December 12.

'We're wondering what the heck can we do as parents to start moving forward,' says coach

The community of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake First Nation) held a suicide prevention walk Thursday after the deaths of four young people who took their own lives recently. (photo courtesy Cynthia Robinson )

A hockey coach in Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) says youth in the northern community need more than just one after-school hockey program after thecommunity declared a state of emergencyfollowing six suicide deaths since Dec. 12.

Four of the victims were high school students, one was a young person from Norway House visiting the community for a funeral, and the most recent was a mother of three in her 30s. There are 100 students at the high school on the suicide watch list. 

"It affects everybody in school, in the hockey teams. They're all friends and it's really hard for the kids right now in our community," said community's hockey coach, Harold Nachbaur.

There are no arts, music, dance or self-defence programs, Nachbaur said, leaving young people with nothing to do and nowhere to go. They need a place where they can go and talk, he said.

"Somewhere where the kids can go and hang out and feel like they're wanted and there's something to do other than going to try to commit suicide or [do] drugs and [drink] alcohol," he said. 

The community only has one rink that's overbooked and only offers hockey, no public skating, he said. 

"We need some more intervention, some prevention, some programs to start kicking up and getting the kids to be more occupied. There's not enough for them to do," he said. "We need a nice youth complex, a youth centre, somewhere for the kids to go and hangout and have some fun."

If Nachbaur's 16-year-old son wasn't playing hockey, he said he would be concerned about what he's doing in his spare time. 

"I'd be always on him and looking at what he's actually doing and up to," he said. "Drugs and alcohol [are] a big thing here in the community for the young people. [They also get into] trouble, fighting."

The acting chief of the northern Manitoba community of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) has declared a state of emergency after the deaths of six people by suicide since December 12. 0:46
​People in the community are shocked and can't believe what's going on, he said.

"We're wondering what the heck can we do as parents to start moving forward in a positive direction."


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

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story stated 170 students were on a suicide watch list. The number has been revised by the community and is now at 100.
    Mar 10, 2016 4:52 PM CT