Raymond Cornish sees youth grasping at straws, in distress, and suicidal.
It’s a recurring story that won’t seem to go away for the Winnipeg pastor. Getting help for the young people that come to him? Well that’s a constant struggle.
“They’re reaching up hoping so that you will reach down and pull them up,” Cornish said last week at a Vital Conversation on mental health as part of Winnipeg’s Vital Signs, an initiative of The Winnipeg Foundation. Approximately 100 people participated in this community consultation event held at the University of Winnipeg’s Atrium.
Cornish, a pastor at Deliverance Centre Church, says he’s seen a lot over the last 20 years, but kids in crisis tops the list.
Take the young man who’s tried to commit suicide three or four times, for example.
There is a special psych ward at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre to deal with the crisis, but only temporarily. That’s the keyword.
“As soon as he could basically lift up his head, he’s out of there,” Cornish said adding it gets worse.
“After they leave there, there is absolutely no follow up. It’s like a black hole.”
That black hole was the talk of the night at the Mon. Jan. 23 event, co-hosted by the Winnipeg Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“Coming from the schools, simply, the services just aren’t there and you’re always blocked,” said Harriet Zimmer, a Winnipeg guidance counsellor.
Calls for more help for people living with mental health issues blanketed round table discussions Monday.
Some want the government to treat the issue like a cancer or another serious public health concern.
“We have an explosion of mental problems,” said Cornish.
Winnipeg musician Robb Nash, who’s toured Canada to speak to youth in schools, says the problems here at home are akin to those out east or west or up north.
“It’s amazing it’s like the kids in New Brunswick just partied with the kids in Vancouver last night,” Nash said.
Nash, who has his own incredible story of survival, was at one time suicidal too.
He shares his story with youth and says the stories he hears are inspiring, but some are sad like the time a school called him into speak after a student committed suicide.
That student had signed a pact with a peer, who agreed to take her own life if her friend did.
“I knew somebody in the audience, right in front of me, was about to take their life and I got to this place in the show where I knew I had to talk about it and I froze,” Nash said.
After the show, a girl came running up to Nash with mascara running down her face. She gave him a note.
“She said it’s my suicide note. I was going to kill myself tonight.”
Nash has gotten over 600 of those notes since.
Winnipeg’s Vital Signs® initiative, a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, is a check-up on the vitality of our community. As part of Vital Signs®, the first in a series of Vital Conversations was held on Mon. Jan. 23, focused on Mental Health, Addictions and Healing.
For more stories on this event, go to “Digging deep on mental health and well-being“. You can also view a full recording or a recap of highlights from the discussion by visiting The Winnipeg Foundation’s Facebook page.