Manitoba

Pimicikamak staff and students struggle to deal with crisis, principal says

The principal of the high school in Pimicikamak says his school is struggling as the northern community deals with a suicide crisis.

'It's difficult to move quickly to heal,' says principal Gordon Hum

Pimicikamak school principal Gordon Hum says it's difficult to heal when one suicide follows another so rapidly. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC )

The principal of the high school in Pimicikamak says his school is struggling as the northern community deals with a suicide crisis.

Six people, including high school students, have died by suicide in Pimicikamak, also known as Cross Lake, since December.

"We're trying to carry on as much as usual. It's not that easy," said principal Gordon Hum.

"I've been in schools before and if I had one suicide a year.… We can deal with it and move on. But when you have five back-to-back in such a short period of time, it's difficult to move quickly to heal."

The flag at Pimicikamak's school flies at half mast to mourn those who have lost their lives. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)
More than 100 young people are on a suicide watch list. Hum said there are 10 kids at the school that he considers at high risk of attempting suicide.

"I had a kid yesterday actually come in and I was talking to him and all of a sudden he says, 'I'm fed up with school. I don't like it. I want to kill myself,'" he said. "Now, he may have had a bad day, but somehow kids are starting to say that now and we've got to believe them, so then we can help them."

The school has trained staff and some students to spot warning signs.

Hum said the school was not in a crisis state like this when he arrived five months ago. He doesn't know what set the suicides off but it likely has to do with family issues, he said.

The school has trained staff and some students to spot the warning signs of suicide. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)
"Some kids are very, very lost," he said. "They probably have some triggers in their lifestyle. When you add up one or two, three, four, five triggers, it's too much to handle." 

Triggers might be that students are living in a foster home, their parents are having problems, the students are taking care of the family and the expectations are too high, or they're not doing well in school, he said.

"Up to this point, there hasn't been a clear policy on how to deal with this kind of crisis," he said.


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