A group of teens from Fond du Lac is turning an annual pilgrimage into a bike ride for youth suicide awareness.
According to Jake Mercredi, a councillor from the Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation, residents in northern Saskatchewan make an annual pilgrimage to Lac St. Anne in Alberta. This year, he wanted to do things a little bit differently.
“The way I wanted to put it, is it’s for youth suicide awareness, just to put it out there, [letting them know] that there’s things out there for them,” Mercredi said.
Mercredi said the youth trained for months by riding their bikes around the community and running on treadmills in preparation for their journey, which covers some 640 kilometers.
The councillor noted although Fond du Lac is a fly-in, fly-out community, services and support are available to youth there.
Suicide has left an impact in Fond du Lac. Mercredi said in the last year, the community lost three teens.
For Irin Noe, 17, raising awareness around services for youth considering suicide is a good feeling which can’t quite be captured in words.
Alden McDonald, 19, said this trip would be his first time travelling to Lac Ste Anne.
“I just wanted to try out something new, something different, instead of being in my reserve,” McDonald said. “There’s pretty much nothing to do [in Fond du Lac], and I seen this opportunity, I took it and went for it right away.”
Riders will be escorted by police in and out of major centers along the way. The group will make their way along Highway 3 toward North Battleford before heading towards Lloydminister before making their way toward Lac Ste. Anne.
Mercredi said the group plans to ride three to four hours a day. He noted he would be taking it easier on the riders on the hotter days, and the crew has plenty of water to keep them hydrated.
The bike-a-thon, which departed from Prince Albert on July 6, is something Mercredi said he wants to continue on as long as he possibly can. The inaugural event garnered some $30,000 in support from local businesses in the form of donations, pads and helmets and even brand new bikes for the eight participants in its first year.
Mercredi said he hopes having a few participants this year generates more support from the youth of Fond du Lac in the future.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is in crisis, you can contact the 24-hour Prince Albert Mobile Crisis unit at (306) 764-1011 or the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. Services are offered in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktuk by request 24/7.
Warning Signs of Suicide:
• Suicidal threats
• Statements revealing a desire to die
• Previous suicide attempts
• Sudden changes in behaviour (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness)
• Depression (crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness)
• Final arrangements (such as giving away personal possessions)
Communities in need of mental health crisis counselling services can call 1-866-885-3933 ext. 4 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday to Friday.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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