Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the tragedy of young people taking their lives has to stop following the suicides of three girls in northern Saskatchewan.
Two girls from Stanley Mission took their own lives last week and a third girl from La Ronge died in recent days.
The communities are part of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says everyone is on edge right now.
Cook-Searson says there have also been nine suicide attempts in the past week and that more than 20 youths are considered at risk.
Vice-Chief Bob Merasty, in charge of the health portfolio with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), sent thanks out to the mental health care workers and volunteers on the ground in the communities.
“Your investment in our youth does not go unnoticed. We appreciate the work you’re doing. For the rest of us, let’s try and get behind these people and give them the support they need,” he said.
But Merasty said more needs to be done than simply reacting to the immediate crisis.
“We need to build capacity in these communities to help them. The usual, clinical response to helping a person who’s talking about suicide is just not going to work anymore. It’s not enough,” he said.
Merasty called for investments in offering indigenous youth opportunities to take part in healthy activities and reconnect with their culture.
“Facilities such as the White Buffalo Youth Lodge (in Saskatoon) are perfect. Where you can go and you can play some sport, you can talk to an elder, you can engage in some spiritual cultural ceremony if you’d like. Those are the kind of solutions we need to start looking at,” he said.
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Health Canada says in a statement that it has been in touch with the chief and others in Stanley Mission about providing mental health therapists.
The department says that based on an assessment, it will help fund costs for three mental health therapists to provide counselling to at-risk youth until the end of December.