An epic walk this weekend seeks to raise awareness of suicide while honouring its victims.
Organized by young people from Montreal Lake Cree Nation under the banner Youth Creating Change (YCC), the first “You Are Not Alone” Suicide Awareness Walk will serve as an opportunity to remember those who have died from suicide and to help prevent future occurrences.
“We’ve had a big amount of suicides happening in our community, and a group of friends of mine, we decided that we should do something about it,” spokesperson Carol Naytowhow said.
The walk will begin this Friday in the parking lot of the E.A. Rawlinson Centre and will last until Sunday evening, when the walkers arrive at Montreal Lake.
Registration at the Rawlinson Centre starting point will take place from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by opening ceremonies with guest speakers. The walk itself will then begin at 6 p.m.
Organizers are hoping the event will attract approximately 150 people.
“It’s kind of like the opening door to more awareness in our community … opening doors for it to let other communities know that we’re trying to start a youth action plan against this,” Naytowhow said.
A third-year student at the First Nations University of Canada, Naytowhow, 23, has personal experience with the tragic occurrence, having lost a sister to suicide less than two years ago.
Disturbed by the number of suicides within their community, she and her friends met for coffee and decided to do something about the issue.
Taking inspiration from other groups in Montreal Lake Cree Nation that have done walks, the group decided to host a walk from Prince Albert to Montreal Lake to raise awareness of suicide.
“Right now we’re just starting off,” Naytowhow said. “We want to start having more training and letting our youth know … that we’re here and we also have suffered losses through suicide.
“We want to let the community know that we’re able to talk to them if they want to come out and talk to us … starting communication and letting them know that we’re here to listen and that they are really not alone.”
To help promote communication, the upcoming Suicide Awareness Walk will include trained grievance counsellors on site.
We’ve had a big amount of suicides happening in our community, and a group of friends of mine, we decided that we should do something about it. Carol Naytowhow
“We’ll have people there for them to talk to during the walk, if they feel like they need to talk to somebody,” Naytowhow said.
Setting off from Prince Albert on Friday evening, the walkers will journey approximately 25 kilometres north of the city before stopping at Craft Haven on Township Road.
Registration will begin again on Saturday starting at 8 a.m. before the walk continues at 9 a.m. Over the course of the day, walkers will continue to the halfway point at a turnoff near Clarine Lake, where they will then camp out for the second evening (organizers encourage walkers to bring their own camping gear, but will have extra tents on hand).
On Sunday, the walk begins again at 9 a.m. and will continue until Montreal Lake. Closing ceremonies are scheduled to take place that evening at 8:30 p.m.
The finale will include both supper and the release of floating paper lanterns, each representing a family member who has died as the result of suicide.
In organizing the walk, YCC members have had invaluable assistance from community members in Montreal Lake Cree Nation -- which is also hosting the event -- through donations and volunteers.
Should the walk prove successful, organizers may bring it back in future years.
“We’re just seeing how the first walk will go and then we’re hoping to have one within the next year, hopefully around the same time … so we’ll see how this turnout goes,” Naytowhow said.
When it comes to showing one’s support, she added, every little bit helps.
“It would be greatly appreciated to have as many supporters as we can to come and walk with us -- even if they just come walk for, I don’t know, 15 minutes or so … as long as they show up to support us.”
Additional information on the walk is available by contacting Naytowhow at 306-980-1822, Kimberley Beatty at 306-981-1353 or Neeyanna Nelson at 306-940-8967.