15 Thunder Bay groups sign commitment to respond to tragic events
Representatives from 15 agencies in Thunder Bay, Ont., including health services, school boards and First Nations groups, convened Wednesday at an Indigenous support services centre to sign a commitment to work together in responding to youth suicide and other tragic events.
Events such as severe accidents, threats and deaths by illness and suicide, impact people in Thunder Bay every year.
Tina Bobinski, the assistant director of mental health at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, said traumatic events really "immobilize our community in terms of peoples' emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being," and that it's important that all parties involved "stay current, in terms of the best practices around responding" to suicides and other events.
Over 50 attendees arrived outside the centre to watch representatives sign the memorandum.
The agreement, titled the "youth tragic events fan-out protocol" will see all signatories share resources, knowledge and expertise in preventing and responding to tragedies. An original agreement, signed by many of the agencies in 2009, sought only to address youth suicide, though Bobinski said the community has now recognized there have been "quite a few other tragic events" that have occurred.
She said the new document lays out the roles and responsibilities of each organization during the initial hours after a traumatic event, and also in the longer term.
'The youth go everywhere'
"It's really important for us to have as many resources available during these times because the youth go everywhere," Bobinski explained. "They attend school, they're participating in community events and activities, they may be accessing services at different organizations."
She added that it's important for all parties to understand who is in the community and how different groups might be impacted.
"When kids are experiencing tragic events in their lives, we rally the troops, we mobilize resources and we get people to them as quickly as possible," she said.
Mirella Fata, the Mental Health Lead for the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board said the protocol helps "fast-track" students into the community services they need, because of close connections the school board now has with so many resources.
Trauma is 'very much felt in schools'
A tragic event is "very much felt in the schools," Fata said. "Very quickly, our school board resources can get quite overwhelmed because we don't have the level of mental health support that a community health agency has. [...] We need the protocol to be able to do this."
Fata said all agencies involved are going "above and beyond what they're expected to" as they are not mandated to be involved in such an agreement. She argued there should also be a city-wide protocol in place to address everyone in Thunder Bay, not only the students.
Bobinski said that to sign the agreement is an important step toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
"It's good for everybody in terms of having a united approach to the wellness of people in our community."