Winnipeg musician heads to Pimicikamak amid suicide crisis

A Winnipeg musician who uses music to tackle difficult issues like bullying, addiction and suicide will head to Pimicikamak on Thursday.

Robb Nash to play concert, talk about mental health issues with youth in Manitoba First Nation

Robb Nash speaks to CBC's Marcy Markusa in Winnipeg on Wednesday. (Pat Kanuiga/CBC)

A Winnipeg musician who uses music to tackle difficult issues like bullying, addiction and suicide will head to Pimicikamak on Thursday.

Pimicikamak, also known as Cross Lake First Nation, declared a state of emergency last week after several suicides in the community.

Since December, six people have taken their lives, four of them high school students.

Crisis units have arrived in the community, and a junior hockey team was in the community on Wednesday to speak to youth at the school.

Robb Nash, a Winnipeg musician who does concerts for teens on tough issues, will visit the community on Thursday with his band Live on Arrival.

"We just got flooded with emails and calls. The reserve was contacting different people connected to us, like Perimeter Airlines and people within the government, saying, 'Is there a way we can get Robb up?'" said Nash. "I guess they've spoken to other reserves and heard about the work we do when we go up."

Nash performs in more than 200 schools per year.

"Our whole thing is we go into schools, reserves, prisons. We put on concerts and try to get the conversation started," said Nash. "We show videos of families that have gone through similar tragedies, and we'll tell a story, and then we'll play a song about it."
An estimated 1,000 people from Pimicikamak (Cross Lake, Man.) participated in a suicide-prevention walk on March 10. (Facebook)

The community still has dozens of young people on a suicide watch list, and some groups, including the Bear Clan in Winnipeg, have been collecting donations for things like sports equipment to keep teens busy.

"I'm well aware we're only there for a little bit, but you know, just last week we had a mom write us from the Northwest Territories. Her daughter saw our concert four years ago," said Nash, who added the girl was suicidal at the time. "And [her mom] says, 'Four years ago you spoke to my daughter. I don't know what you said, but she's been clean ever since. She's changed.'"

Kids get the band's music for free after the show, are given suicide help line information and counsellors are there waiting for kids to talk to when the show is over.

"We talk with these kids all the time. They don't feel embraced. They feel separated," said Nash. "They don't say, 'I wish my house was bigger, my car was shinier.' They say, 'I wish I had significance.'"

Nash will arrive in the community on Thursday.

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