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‘An ongoing battle that we’re losing': Sask. Indigenous leaders address suicide crisis in province's north
SASKATOON -- Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation Chief Ronald Mitsuing says he is scared after a rash of suicides in his community.
“I can’t sleep anymore at night. My people are in grief right now and they’re scared.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) held a press conference Thursday to address suicides and attempted suicides in northern Saskatchewan.
Makwa Sahgaiehcan, located in the province's northwest, declared a state of crisis last week after a 10-year-old girl died by suicide. A father in his early 40s and a 14-year-old also died by suicide this month.
Mitsuing told media there was another incident Wednesday night, but did not provide details.
“We’re losing too many young people. For what?”
Neighbouring communities also fear they’re going to start losing lives soon, he said.
He called on the provincial government to implement the FSIN suicide prevention strategy released last year and for the federal government to help.
“If we do something right and work together, something will come out of it.”
“There are no words in English or Dene to describe what’re we’re facing with our young people,” Fond du Lac Chief Louie Mercredi said.
His community, located northwest of Prince Albert, also experienced a suicide attempt Wednesday night, he said.
Fond du Lac has seen “devastating” numbers related to suicide, Mercredi said. However, he declined to provide details.
“This is an ongoing battle that we’re losing.”
He said he is tired of “Band-Aid” solutions from government, and that long term programs and land-based education are needed.
“We are once again crying for help to save our young people.”
Most issues start with overcrowded housing, as some homes accommodate up to 15 people, he said.
'Our workers are overwhelmed’
FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt said what's working in other provinces with Indigenous communities is "connecting the kids back to who they are and the land."
"Indigenous people have always been, and always will have, a connection to the land and there's something when you're out there on the land, when you're out on the water, when you're out there hunting, when you're out there trapping or fishing, you feel strength you feel healing, you feel something that comes from that, and that's what we want to focus on today."
He said it's all about resources.
"Our workers are overwhelmed, that's why we need the federal government to respond."
Pratt accused Premier Scott Moe of playing politics with NDP leader Ryan Meili "over the lives of our kids."
"We’re frustrated. Something has to happen and his focus needs to be on our kids and protecting our kids, rather than building a damn pipeline."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available. Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645) and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues. If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. The Centre for Suicide Prevention (1-833-456-4566) is a place where resources on suicide prevention can be found.