'We can't just bury it anymore': Fort Simpson responds to 4 suicides since February

Young people in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. say they’re standing together after four suicides in the community in the past four months.

'We all have to step up,' says Reannda Cli

Reannda Cli is speaking up about suicide in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., encouraging residents to talk to each other after four people died by suicide there since February. (Submitted by Reannda Cli)
After seeing another young person in Fort Simpson die by suicide — the fourth since February — Reannda Cli says she'd had enough. 

She took to social media, penning a heartfelt Facebook message, calling on the community of 1,200 to talk to each other about suicide. Then she met with her friends, and they talked. 

"We were open with each other; having open discussions about how we felt. It's important to not bottle anything up," Cli said. "We all have to step up."

Since then, there's been a service at a local church, plans are coming together for a public meeting, and more than 150 people have joined a support group on Facebook. Young people in the community are sharing messages of love and support as well as resources for people who may be in trouble.

"We're all responsible to hold each other up and stand by each other. Any little words of support you can give to anyone would be really helpful," Cli said. 

Young people are driving the discussion about suicide in Fort Simpson now, but Cli wants to see the band council, Métis office and local government participate in the conversation.

"We can't just bury it anymore," Cli said.

"It seemed like we should have started doing things before," she said. "But at least we can start now." 

Counsellors en route

The Coroner's Office of the Northwest Territories confirmed the four suicides in the community of 1,238 people and said there are victim's services available for their families. Trauma counsellors are also expected in the community this week. 

Cli's post helped prompt Connor Gaule to start the Fort Simpson Suicide Prevention Awareness discussion group on Facebook. It has dozens of posts and links to resources for helping people who may be thinking about suicide. 

"It's good to know people are out there and people are willing to listen; that you're wanted and you're needed and you are more important than you realize," Gaule said. 

"I think the fact there's so much support for this group shows everyday people want to be part of the change and do want to stand up," he said.

Gaule says he's dealt with depression before and knows what it's like to feel alone. The suicide "epidemic" will continue without more mental health support, he said.

"It's time we all came together, stand up, say we're not going to take this and figure something out," he said.

"If we were to have an open meeting where people could discuss their opinions and ideas, that would be a great start," Gaule said, "to get us collectively together and move in the right direction."

"If no one stands up, nothing is going to change."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide in the N.W.T., call the confidential NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844. You can also call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor. There is also the First Nations and Inuit Watch help line at 1-855-242-3310. 

With files from Lawrence Nayally