‘Life is precious:’ Black Lake, Sask. youth concluding cycle for suicide prevention

Twenty-three youth cycled over 1400 km from Black Lake, Sask. to Lac Ste. Anne, Alta. for suicide prevention. -- Jay Robillard/Submitted

Back in 2000, David Bigeye from Black Lake lost a close friend to suicide.

This loss, and the many others that have struck northern Saskatchewan since, sparked a 1400 km bike-a-thon to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

“I never thought I would encounter that moment in my life when I started this,” said Bigeye, coordinator for the bike-a-thon.

“It shattered my heart into so many pieces, and that’s why I continue on doing what I do to help the youth.”

Twenty-three youth started biking from Black Lake on Jul. 12. The journey took them south to Prince Albert, then west through the Battlefords and finally to Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., where they were set to arrive on Saturday.

This was the fifth time the bike-a-thon has taken place in the past 23 years.

A lack of funding has been the main hindrance in holding one every year, Bigeye explained, with the costs of food, water, accommodations, fuel and equipment.

“We need to tell them that every child matters and that their life is precious and important to us,” said Bigeye.

This is the first year the group has been joined by a mental health worker. They host sharing circles on the bike-a-thon to heal from suicide, addictions and violence. — Jay Robillard/Submitted

Bigeye said suicides are often driven by drugs, alcohol, abuse and a lack of recreation opportunities in these isolated communities.

He said Black Lake has a playground, a recreation centre and two baseball diamonds. However, he explained, there’s a hole in sports and cultural programming that would benefit the overall well-being of youth.

This also applies to surrounding communities like Hatchet Lake and Fond du Lac.

“Through that, they’re losing their lifestyle, living positively, due to those impacts. They develop low self-esteem and they develop anger and it seems like they’re giving up on themselves.”

Bigeye said this is the first year a mental health worker has joined them on their trip. They host sharing circles along the way to help them heal from losing someone to suicide, addictions or violence.

Not only that, the bike-a-thon is intended to keep youth occupied and surrounded by love and support. This will break the cycle of suicides and reduce the numbers going forward, said Bigeye.

“The groups that we work with, their lives changed. A lot of them became successful.”

According to the federal government, some First Nation and Metis communities – especially youth – are at a higher risk of suicide, along with all Inuit regions in the country.

About 4,500 people die by suicide every year in Canada, according to its website. This is the equivalent to 12 deaths a day, and about 200 more people will attempt suicide per day.

If you’re in a mental health crisis, help is available through HealthLine 811 or by contacting Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.