Already grieving from the tragic loss of her niece to suicide on Oct. 6 in Stanley Mission, Sally Ratt received one of the worst calls a mother can receive.
While out at a trap line, she got the call saying her 12-year-old daughter, Ariana Roberts had taken her own life the very next day.
Ratt said she doesn’t remember much of what happened next.
“When I got here it was even more devastating than anything I’ve ever gone through in my life.”
Ratt said before the incident they had planned to spend the day together clothes shopping and getting matching haircuts.
Roberts was the second of three girls to take her own life in the area in recent weeks, in what band officials are calling a crisis. Both she and her cousin were from Stanley Mission. A third victim lived in La Ronge, while the latest suicide tragedy involved a 10-year-old girl from from Deschambault Lake.
Ratt said counselling with the many therapists now in Stanley Mission has helped her in her darkest days.
“It makes me feel that I’m not so alone to know I have people out there willing to help,” she said. “But it’s hard living without my daughter.”
She said everyone in the community has offered help and condolences, and she herself reached out to the other grieving families with her support.
“It was something I felt I needed to do. She wouldn’t want me to stop living,” she said.
Ratt said her daughter was a bright spark in the community, a “happy-go-lucky girl” who made friends everywhere she went.
“Everybody loved her. She liked to help people. She always tried to make sure everybody else was okay before herself.”
But Ratt said her daughter had her own struggles and attempted to harm herself this past spring.
When she was younger, Ratt said Roberts witnessed a murder and was in counselling for much of her life.
“She looked distressed a lot of the time, her stares would be blank and she would have these episodes where she would just stare in one place and not see or hear anything that was going on around her,” Ratt said, adding counselling had helped her deal with her grief and was in a better place.
Ratt is unsure if that drove her to take her own life, but said bullying may have been a factor as well.
She said Roberts had been a victim of online bullying and she urged her daughter to stay away from Facebook.
“There’s only so much a parent can keep away from their child,” said Ratt, adding the amount of bullying she sees and hears is shocking.
“I guess parents these days don’t explain to their kids what bullying can do. They need to teach them more about the value of life, not the materials of life,” she said.
More resources needed
Ratt is joining the call from local leaders for more mental health resources to be embedded in northern communities to prevent further tragedies.
A $17 million mental health and wellness centre is planned for La Ronge and will be pitched to Ottawa once a business plan is created.
Numerous therapists and mental health workers are now in both Stanley Mission and La Ronge, conducting individual and group support sessions to help the community.
David Watts, executive director of clinical services with Mamawetan Churchill River Health Region, said the community response is extremely supportive.
“The community has hugely come together,” Watts said. “It’s not just our resources, it’s everyone.”
According to Watts, many parents remain nervous for the safety of their children, but the community’s response is one of overwhelming mutual support.
-with files from Taylor MacPherson