Saskatoon

Counsellor says more funding needed at Sask. First Nation after teen's suicide

A school counsellor who works with at-risk youth in northern Saskatchewan says his community needs more funding for suicide prevention after a 13-year-old girl took her own life on Tuesday.

13-year-old is 5th girl to take her own life in northern Saskatchewan over the past month

A school counsellor is calling for more government support for suicide prevention measures at Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation after a teen girl took her own life. (CBC News)

A school counsellor who works with at-risk youth in northern Saskatchewan says his community needs more funding for suicide prevention after a 13-year-old girl took her own life on Tuesday.

Barry Chalifoux is the prevention and intervention team leader in the counselling department at the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation School, about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. The First Nation is adjacent to the village of Loon Lake.  

Chalifoux said emergency crisis response teams have been set up to support the community, which has been hit hard by the loss.

She was the fifth girl aged between 10 and 14 to take her own life in northern Saskatchewan in the past month. 

The teenager, who was a student at the school, died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

Students have received grief counselling, and crisis counsellors from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council are in the community to provide support. An RCMP officer also spent time at the school on Tuesday. 

Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon and about 60 kilometres west of Meadow Lake. (Google Maps/CBC)

But Chalifoux said the community needs government support to expand its suicide prevention and social support services. 

He said the school has been trying to get funding to expand its youth programs to weekends and evenings. Chalifoux said weekends are when youth are the most vulnerable. 

"All of us, our school staff, our health staff, our band staff, we're also really busy during the week, and so it takes a lot of our time," said Chalifoux.

"I'm putting a lot of extra hours in and I don't mind that, for these kids it's worth it, but if we can get the funding to hire people who can specifically target this area, it would really help."

Chalifoux said there also needs to be more education for young people about what to do when a friend is at risk of suicide.

"It's very common that they see their friends mentioning on Facebook, through private messages or through Snapchat, that they're thinking of hurting themselves, and the kids think that it's enough just to say, 'It's going to be OK I'm here for you,' but it's not."

He said the students need training to know when to contact an adult or call 911. 

The girl's funeral was held on Friday. 

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