'Dying from hopelessness': Attawapiskat desperate to stop suicide pandemic
Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario declared a state of emergency Saturday in response to reports of 11 suicide attempts in one day by residents of all ages, including a 10-year-old child.
Since September, there have been reports of more than 100 suicide attempts and at least one death.
"Last night we had about 11 suicide attempts, and for the month of April itself, altogether, it's 15... That's a lot. - Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh, on Sunday April 10, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the situation "heartbreaking". And both federal and provincial governments have flown an emergency medical assistance team into the community, including mental health workers. But local leaders say much more needs to be done to address the underlying conditions driving so many people — especially young people — to despair.
Charlie Angus, the NDP MP for TImmins-James Bay which includes the northern Ontario First Nation, knows all to well the suffering of Attawapiskat residents. He has adamantly pushed for more resources and better support for the community. As the NDP indigenous affairs critic, he has called on the federal government to adopt a national action plan to deal with what he calls a suicide "pandemic" in First Nations communities.
Attawapiskat is not alone among First Nation communities when it comes to grappling with an onslaught of suicide attempts. It's a phenomenon that Dr. Laurence Kirmayer says is all too common for aboriginal communities.
Guests in this segment:
- Jonathan Solomon, Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council, of which Attawapiskat is a member nation.
- Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay in northern Ontario, an area which includes the Attawapiskat First Nation. He's also the author of Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada's Lost Promise and One Girl's Dream.
- Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, co-director of the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research, and director of the division of social and transcultural psychiatry at McGill University.
This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino, Sujata Berry and Paula Last.