Parents on edge after northern Saskatchewan suicides

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says parents in the community are worried about their children after another suicide in northern Saskatchewan.

Emergency operation centres, rapid response teams have been set up

People came together in La Ronge, Sask. in October for a candlelight vigil in memory of three young girls. Parents in the community are worried after another girl took her own life on Sunday. (Don Somers/CBC)

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says parents in the community are worried about their children after another suicide in northern Saskatchewan.

"It could be anyone. It could be any one of our families," said Cook-Searson. "Our heart breaks for these families losing children to suicide."

On Sunday, a 13-year-old girl from La Ronge, Sask. became the sixth girl to take her own life in northern Saskatchewan in the past month. 

The girls, aged 10 to 14, came from the Saskatchewan communities Stanley Mission, Deschambault Lake and Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said last month the entire community was on edge. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

"People are concerned," said Cook-Searson. "They're worried about their children, but at the same time they're really supportive and loving of the families who are grieving."

Emergency response

Cook-Searson said emergency operation centres have been established in La Ronge and Stanley Mission. Rapid response teams have also been set up in all six communities that make up the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

She said mental health workers will do assessments on students in all the schools, specifically those in grades 7, 8 and 9.

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)

A daily briefing conference call, involving about 60 people, is now taking place with members of provincial and federal agencies to discuss the northern Saskatchewan suicides.

"There's always more that can be done," said Cook-Searson. "Right now, they're looking to us to see what we need. They don't want to come in here and tell us how we should do this or that."

Cook-Searson said the community is rallying behind the families who have lost young girls over the past month. She also said the parents of those girls are in constant contact with one another.

"I think that's so vital," she said.

Premier to visit

Premier Brad Wall said on Monday he planned to travel to northern Saskatchewan to meet with community leaders next week. 

Wall said the government is looking at all options to address the issue, noting that suicide prevention strategies were being developed with school divisions and health regions. 

"It's an all-of-the-above approach we need to take for this because we just can't afford to lose any young girls, or any young people period," he said. 

MP Georgina Jolibois called on the federal government to address the immediate Indigenous mental health needs in northern communities.

"The government needs to end the Band-Aid strategy and commit to a culturally appropriate long-term approach to mental wellness," Jolibois said during Monday's question period in the House of Commons. 

"How much louder do our kids need to be?"

With files from Devin Heroux