Sask. First Nation declares state of crisis over recent suicides, including 10-year-old girl
SASKATOON -- Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation Chief Ronald Mitsuing has declared a state of crisis and emergency in the northwest Sask. community after three suicides in recent weeks - with the latest involving a 10-year-old girl.
“We’re all recovering from a sleepless night,” band manager Barry Chalifoux said.
Thursday’s suicide is the third suicide this month. Last week a father in his early 40s died, and earlier this month a 14-year-old died by suicide.
“We’re in a place where we’re physically and emotionally unable to deal with this properly,” Chalifoux said.
The First Nation has seen seven suicides in the last three years, he said.
“Chief Mitsuing and I both feel our staff are not ready or prepared to deal with the current level of crisis in the community considering how close in timing each event has recently occurred. The staff have been operating in crisis mode all year.”
He said the community’s registered psychologist feels overwhelmed and cannot proceed without immediate help; their secondary registered therapist is closely related to the latest suicide and may also feel overwhelmed; and the health director has also recently suffered a close loss in her family.
Chalifoux said he has been in contact with Health Canada and the Saskatchewan Health Authority to coordinate mental health support.
“We would like each and every school aged child to be assessed with parental permission at our school. We would like our staff to be debriefed, supported through crisis respite,” Chalifoux said.
The community also wants immediate funding to hire a suicide support coordinator and additional school counsellors throughout the next few months.
"People make that permanent decision for a temporary feeling when they could have just talked to someone, " Cheyenne Fineblanket, a teacher at the community's school said.
"Our kids, with the generational effects of residential schools, the kids don't know how to talk, they don't how to feel, they don't know how to trust. So they're lacking those very important coping skills that will help them overcome these suicidal thoughts," she said.
According to an emailed statement from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), a mental wellness team from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC), which administers health care for the community, has been dispatched to the community to provide support.
ISC said it’s also working with the leadership of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, MTLC, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and province's health ministry to ensure the community receives the mental health and crisis support it needs.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said he spoke with Chief Mitsuing and other community leaders Thursday.
"My deepest condolences go to the families and to the community members of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. Any loss of life from suicide is a tragedy beyond measure," Miller said.
A Saskatchewan government statement sent Friday afternoon siad Minister of Rural and Remote Health Greg Ottenbreit has been in contact with community leaders and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council about the province making supports available.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is also prepared to offer staff trained in suicide risk assessment who can provide assessments for other children in the community, the statement said.
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.