Young woman from northern Sask. compelled to act after cousin took her own life

Shaylynn McAuley was compelled to act after her cousin took her own life in northern Saskatchewan.

Shaylynn McAuley's cousin was 1 of 6 young girls to take their own lives since early November

Shaylynn McAuley, whose 12-year-old cousin recently took her own life, was one of about 200 people at a conference held in Prince Albert, Sask., to discuss the issue of youth suicide. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

Shaylynn McAuley remembers a conversation that took place at the wake for her cousin, who was one of six young girls to take their own lives in northern Saskatchewan since early November. 

"Everyone was there, and everyone started to want to commit to making the community a better place," she recalled.

"Everyone wanted to start making a wellness group for girls." 

McAuley, 19, is a Youth Employment Administrator with theLac La Ronge Indian Band. She helps young people aged 14-30 get job placements through the Youth Work Experience Program. 

After the wake, the young Cree woman was compelled to take action to make sure those new youth programs and services came to fruition. 

"I went into the schools and I said 'Hi, what are you doing for my First Nations youth as a group to involve them in activities? What are you doing?'" said McAuley.

She went to companies, group homes and other schools to ask the same question. 

Hundreds of people met in Prince Albert, Sask. on Monday to talk about northern suicides. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC News)

Since then, McAuley said new wellness groups have been launched for girls, men and parents.

There's also work to get more young people involved in a trapline program called Youth Haven. 

"It's a place where we could go and connect with the land, and that's really one strong place they want to send the youth to and the parents as well," she said.

"And that's the one thing we're trying to work on right now, is to gather all of our people for the summer time to send them there."

Finding solutions 

McAuley said making sure children had a place to go during the Christmas holidays was also important for the community. 

On Monday, she was one of 200 teachers, health workers and young people who attended the Community Medicine gathering in Prince Albert, Sask., to talk about the youth suicide issue. 

McAuley said she planned to share what she learned at the discussion when she returned to Lac La Ronge. 

She believes listening to youth, and making sure programs are suited to their needs, is important for the community moving forward. 

"They don't want to talk to elders, they don't want to talk to their own parents or teachers, right?" she said.

"They want to talk to youth, someone who they can build a bond with and a passionate conversation."

With files from CBC's Jennifer Quesnel