Wednesday October 19, 2016

'This hit so hard' Fourth girl takes her own life in northern Saskatchewan

While mental health and addictions services are available, as are youth workers, some people in La Ronge, Sask. say there isn’t much help for suicide or crisis intervention.

While mental health and addictions services are available, as are youth workers, some people in La Ronge, Sask. say there isn’t much help for suicide or crisis intervention. (Don Somers/CBC)

Just as communities in Northern Saskatchewan were struggling with the loss of three girls in the span of four days, there has been more heart-wrenching news. On Tuesday, community leaders announced that another girl had taken her own life. She was 10 years old. She lived in Deschambault Lake.

Karen Sanderson

Karen Sanderson is executive director of the Piwapan Women’s Centre in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

The girls were from the northern Saskatchewan communities of Stanley Mission, La Ronge and Deschambault Lake. They were all under the age of 14.

"It's very hard to comprehend and to take in," Karen Sanderson tells As it Happens host Carol Off. Sanderson runs the Piwapan Women's Centre in La Ronge, Saskatchewan.

"[Her parents] adored her. They gave her everything they could. They both worked so hard to provide. It just shows that no one is immune." - Karen Sanderson, Piwapan Women's Centre

"What are we missing here? Because we are definitely missing something. This is so big an impact that we can't ignore it. We can't put it away or say this is for the professionals to handle. No, this everybody. This is for all of us to try and take apart and put it all back together in a way that our youth feel connected to us again," says Sanderson.  

In recent weeks, Sanderson says community members have been meeting to look at what resources they have and figure out what more is needed. She says they're trying to "find a common way for all of us to be able help our clients in a really, really, really sorrowful time in our community."

Sanderson knows the family of the girl in La Ronge who died.

"All of these girls were bright young girls. And it's just heartbreaking." - Karen Sanderson

"[Her family is] going through a very hard grieving process," says Sanderson.

"They are trying to stay strong for the rest of the youth within their family, as well. I'm totally in awe of their strength. I'm totally in awe of their compassion for each other. I think it breaks my heart more because we know how much they loved this girl. We know how much they nurtured her. They adored her. They gave her everything they could. They both worked so hard to provide. It just shows that no one is immune. No matter what community setting your from or class setting or racial setting, no one is immune to this."

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson responds to youth suicides on the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.0:21

Sanderson has spoken with her 10-year-old daughter about the recent suicides.

"[We told her] there are people that will listen. It doesn't have to be us. It doesn't have to be family. If it's one of your friends or if your friend scares you by saying something, you're not being a bad friend by telling someone," she says.  

"She's a bright young girl and I think that's why this hit so hard. Because all of these girls were bright young girls. And it's just heartbreaking."

La Ronge, Sask., vigil

People came together in La Ronge, Sask. Friday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of three young girls. (Don Somers/CBC)