Saskatoon

FSIN wants more mental health support for northern Saskatchewan

While the province is offering additional supports to northern Saskatchewan after the suicides of three young girls, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says permanent solutions are needed.

Vice chief says reactive response to emergencies will no longer work

Three girls between the ages of 12 and 14 took their lives within four days. Two of the girls were from Stanley Mission. The other girl was from La Ronge. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling for permanent supports for youth in northern Saskatchewan, as communities deal with the suicides of three young girls.  

The girls — all between the ages of 12 and 14 — took their own lives within four days in La Ronge and Stanley Mission.

"Our young people are hurting. We know you are hurting. And we are here for you," Vice Chief Bob Merasty said Friday afternoon.

The communities have identified more than 20 young people who are considered high risk to take their own lives. 

Speaking from Yorkton, Greg Ottenbreit — minister responsible for rural and remote health — said the province is making sure mental health supports are in place for youth and their families.

"We'll be there for them as the situation unfolds," Ottenbreit said.

'Nothing about us without us'

FSIN Vice Chief Bob Merasty said support can no longer be reactive to these situations. Rather, proactive solutions have to be in place. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

While Merasty acknowledged the additional resources are helpful, he said the clinical approach isn't going to work.

"We need to invest in these communities so they come up with solutions, how they [can] help their young people."

Merasty said support can no longer be reactive to these situations. Rather, proactive solutions have to be in place. He highlighted things like educating youth about gangs, healthy lifestyles and spirituality that can help with the mental health of youth.

However, Merasty insisted any measures taken must be done with the input of people in the communities.

"What we don't need is another study, another box strategy made without involvement of the community; nothing about us without us," said Merasty.

Some of the measures Ottenbreit highlighted included additional youth counsellors and psychiatric support.

Additional youth counsellors and psychiatric support are among the supports being offered to northern Saskatchewan after the suicides of three young girls. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Merasty said those measures will help, adding that youth need to look to whomever they trust if they're struggling.

"There are people who care about you in your community — your family, people who love you — and don't be scared to reach out to them. Go to someone that you know and trust, and talk to them. Do not take these drastic actions."

Ottenbreit also added that anyone who doesn't feel that they have someone to talk to can reach out to the provincial health line at 811, which has mental health resources available.

About the Author

After spending five years in radio, Courtney Markewich joined CBC Saskatoon in 2016. She is currently a Social Media News Editor/Presenter for @CBCSask and @CBCSaskatoon.