Deaths in Lac La Ronge Indian Band have community searching for solutions

Karen Sanderson, executive director of Piwapan Women's Centre in La Ronge, Sask., says adults in community are grasping at straws while dealing with the trauma of three suicides over a four-day period.

20 other youths labelled high risk

The community of Stanley Mission is reeling after three young girls died earlier this month. (Devin Heroux/CBC News)

Karen Sanderson doesn't want the loss of three youths or its impact on the community of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band to be forgotten. 

Sanderson, the executive director of Piwapan Women's Centre in La Ronge, Sask., said the community is never going to get over the loss but they are seeking out solutions so that they never have to go through the pain again.

"I want that to be the foundation we keep going on, what we try and find long-term solutions for," she said. 

Last week, three youths — two in La Ronge and one in Stanley Mission — took their own lives. The deaths occurred over a four-day period and it sent the communities reeling. Community leaders say 20 other youths have been labelled as a high risk to take their own lives.

Grasping at straws

Sanderson said adults in the community and community resources are "grasping at straws right now."

"I don't even know how our youth are feeling."

Addictions, gangs and a sense of belonging are just some of the issues youth struggle with in the community, Sanderson said. 

"If we could bridge that gap with some services and some community input, youth input, I think it could make us stronger," she said. 

Sanderson said the youth input would be especially helpful to a solution.

"They're the ones who have to try and cope with all of this loss right now," she said. 

Sanderson is a mother and has had to bring the topic up with her 10-year-old daughter.

"We've tried to talk her about if things are a little rough, or something makes her feel bad, to talk to us, talk to her older sister," she said. "Somebody that she trusts, to always talk to them, no matter what."

Open communication is key

Parents need to understand what their children are going through, Sanderson said. 

"It's very difficult because it's coming from your heart. You're trying to put it in your brain and sometimes it doesn't come out very clear," she said of balancing communication without being overbearing. 

"As a parent, just keep the lines of communication open with my kids," she added.

Right now, she said the only path she can take is to try to find the right resources available and close any gaps.

Mental health and addictions agencies have been working with families to provide the affected families with proper support, Sanderson said. 

"I'm trying to put together the community resources, our referral agents, our frontline workers in the community together to see where our gaps in service are and try bring a common way of working together to address all the issues that keep coming up and that effect our youth and our children," she said. 

with files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition