As a Cape Breton community struggles with a string of recent teen suicides, a vigil is being organized to give youth in the region hope and resources, organizers say.
The Salvation Army Sydney Community Church is organizing the event, called Not One More, which starts with a walk through the town and ends with a vigil at the church.
"With three suicides so close together, we feel that it’s a crisis now," says Nicole MacLean, community ministries co−ordinator with the Salvation Army. "These are kids. Their lives haven’t even begun yet."
She says the community gathering will not be political or religious in nature, but is intended to impart a message of hope, love and acceptance while shedding light on a situation that needs more attention.
"We need to take a stand and not sweep this under the rug," MacLean says. "There is something serious happening here that needs our attention."
Sandra Gates, a Salvation Army soldier, or volunteer, says organizers want to gear the event towards youth.
Rather than candles, she says participants will be given glow sticks and information cards with local resources for youth struggling with bullying or mental health issues or families in need of support.
"We want them to know it gets better," says Gates, a Grade 5 teacher. "To them, the issues they are facing today are really huge and all consuming. We want them to know it will get better and make sure they have practical information for who they can call and resources that are there for them."
She says the recent suicides have been "devastating" to the community.
"It’s almost like we’re all walking on eggshells wondering if it will happen again," Gates says. "Everyone is on edge."
Gates says she’s not against social media, but that she says she thinks parents give their children too much privacy.
"I think you should have all your children’s passwords and know what they’re saying to others and what they are being told," she says.
The walk will start at Centre 200 in Sydney at 8 p.m. on Friday and end at the Salvation Army Sydney Community Church.
Mental health expert Dr. Stan Kutcher arrived in Cape Breton on Monday to gather information about the mental health needs for young people in the community.
On behalf of the province, Kutcher is expected to hold private talks with families in Sydney Mines and Sydney who are dealing with recent tragic losses. He will also talk to school staff, community partners and the public to help determine what initiatives can help address mental health concerns on the island.