Suicides, including a 10-year-old girl, trigger state of crisis at Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation
Community's suicide crisis started in 2016, according to band manager
The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northwest Sask. is declaring a state of crisis after a 10-year-old girl took her own life on Thursday.
The band is calling for the provincial and federal governments to provide immediate aid in the form of suicide intervention and prevention workers to go into the community to assist students, school staff and families.
"Nobody is seeing it as a crisis the way we see it. We're burying children," said Barry Chalifoux, the band's manager.
The girl's death is the third youth suicide in recent months, but at age 10, she was the youngest.
Chalifoux said the crisis isn't new and began three years ago. The band has had seven suicides since 2016, he said. The first was a 13-year-old girl on Oct. 25, 2016.
A 17-year-old boy died in 2017 and a 14-year-old girl in 2018. This year, a 17-year-old girl took her life in July. A 14-year-old girl died on November 2nd.
Then, on Nov. 11, a man who was related to one of the teens took his own life. He was laid to rest last week.
This isn't the first time a First Nation has declared an emergency as a result of teen suicides.
In Ontario, the Attawapiskat First Nation on the remote James Bay, declared a state of emergency after dozens of teens attempted to take their own lives in 2016.
In 2017, the Wapekeka First Nation, also in Ontario, declared a state of emergency after almost 40 young people from the community were considered to be at risk of suicide, representing 10 per cent of the northern community.
Then, earlier this year, a First Nation in Manitoba declared a state of emergency as God's Lake First Nation saw four young people take their own lives with many others attempting suicide.
Chalifoux said he and the chief, Ronald Mitsuing, received a text about the 10-year-old's death around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
"We've had multiple attempts this month," Chalifoux added.
The band is strapped for cash and every new funeral and burial costs the band because they have to help community members, he said.
"The suicide crisis is preventable deaths. These are preventable," Chalifoux said. "We're trying everything we can, physically, mentally, spiritually but we know it's not enough."
A release sent out by Chalifoux said the band has been operating in crisis mode all year and the band's two primary mental health professionals are overwhelmed and need immediate relief.
CBC has contacted Saskatchewan's Ministry of Social Services and Indigenous Services Canada for a response, but has not received one yet.
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there.
For an emergency or crisis situation, call 911.
You can also contact the Saskatchewan suicide prevention line toll-free, 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566, the Regina Mobile Crisis Services suicide line at 306-525-5333 or Saskatoon mobile crisis line at 306-933-6200.
- An earlier version of this story said a 15-year-old girl took her own life in 2018. In fact, she was 14.Nov 22, 2019 10:08 AM CT