Suicide Prevention: Current Problems


September 17, 2019

Suicide Prevention Plans

National Paper on Youth Suicide

The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) published “A National Paper on Youth Suicide” that calls on governments at the national, provincial and territorial levels to take concrete action to prevent youth suicide in Canada. Failure to address the multi-faceted issues impacting indigenous communities has led to a suicide epidemic.

The paper consolidates research by the CCCYA members that led to the identification of three broad findings related to youth suicide:

  • the impact of traumatic childhood experiences,
  • the importance of service integration and
  • continuity and how the voices of children and youth needs to be at the front of change.
    National Paper on Youth Suicide: Calls to Action

Calls to Action

  1. The Government of Canada develop and implement a fully resourced National Suicide Strategy with designated funding to the provinces and territories to create their own, or to support existing strategies where applicable. Whether at the federal, provincial or territorial level, young people must be included in all stages of development and implementation.
  2. The Government of Canada develop and implement a cross-jurisdictional, standardized, data system and to compel provinces in the mandatory reporting of attempted and completed suicide.
  3. The Government of Canada shall engage in meaningful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities experiencing elevated rates of suicidal behaviour of young people and develop interventions to eliminate these health disparities. This work should draw on the leadership and expertise of Indigenous youth and Elders whenever possible.

May 18, 2021

States of Emergency

Shamattawa First Nation

CTV News – The Chief of Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba has declared a state of emergency following a recent suicide in the community and a subsequent suicide attempt by a child. Redhead said the crisis started when his sister, a mother of four, died by suicide on May 9. He added a seven-year-old child living in the community attempted suicide on Monday, and is now hospitalized and unresponsive. He said the child is not related to his sister.

Redhead said he is concerned about the potential for additional suicides following the two instances. “When we have one, we often see copycats or a domino effect, and we’re concerned about that,” he said.
Redhead said suicide has been an issue in the community. He said when he took office in 2019, a 12-year-old died by suicide that year, and the community stepped up in an attempt to address mental health in the community.

“We really try to build our health programs around prevention,” Redhead said. Mobile MKO crisis teams, along with the Keewatin Tribal Council are on their way to the community located about 350 kilometres southeast of Churchill. “We need the crisis response teams and the medical professionals on the ground to help the affected through this whole process and to ensure they can flag anyone who might be suicidal or have (suicidal) ideation,” Redhead said.

Redhead said the community is calling for outside help because the local health team is fatigued.
“We had multiple natural deaths in the community that affected the health staff, and really the entire community,” Redhead said, noting there was a burial in the community that afternoon, and two more burials coming on Wednesday.

“That overlapping grief for our service providers at the local level is overwhelming.”
MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the pandemic has exposed gaps in First Nations health.
“Mental and emotional health is an issue that we need to address, because the youth in our communities are suffering, and they have no one to reach out to,” he said. “I think this pandemic has really shown how deficient we are when it comes to mental health and emotional wellness.

May 7, 2020

Suicide Prevention Plans

Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person

Manitoba Child and Youth Advocate: In Manitoba, suicide is the leading manner of death for young people ages 10-17.
On national Youth Mental Health Day the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released “Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person: How 22 Girls Illuminate the Cracks in the Manitoba Youth Mental Health and Addiction System”. The report focuses on the suicide of 22 girls aged 11-17 from mostly rural and norther communities between 2013 -2019. 20 of the victims were either First Nations or Métis.

These girls did not have appropriate access to mental health and addictions services where they lived. And as we know from past reports, like The Slow Disappearance of Matthew (February 2020), demand for these provincial services in Winnipeg already outpaces supply,” Penrose said. All of the girls in this report also experienced early childhood traumas, but only three were offered some type of professional trauma-related interventions in their early and middle years.

Similar to the findings of our 22 child death investigations, the Virgo Report repeatedly noted that the availability of, and accessibility to, services in the mental health and addictions systems vary greatly across our province by region. Rural and remote communities throughout Manitoba, for example, experience limited access to services and supports due to their location and the availability of service providers. Of course, these rural. and remote locations, where services are limited or non-existent are also the locations populated by Indigenous Peoples. This leads to unequal access to provincial services, which is a children’s rights issue.

This current investigation found that many of the Virgo Report’s criticisms of Manitoba’s youth mental health and addictions system remain true today and are certainly reflected in the stories of the 22 girls which informed this report. These include a lack of access to locally available services, a lack of follow-up support after crisis, service providers not communicating and collaborating to carry out plans, a lack of access to culturally appropriate services, and services that do not match the needs of youth


  • Conduct a gap analysis – The province must see what services are available in youth mental health and addictions and release a public framework and its strategic plan for system overhaul.
  • Demonstrate equitable access to services – The province must spread youth mental health and addictions services throughout Manitoba in any future frameworks or strategic plans.
  • Train workers on trauma and its effects – The province must provide early childhood trauma education to all government service providers working with children and youth.
  • Help families learn where the right resources are – The province must conduct and publicize an annual inventory of what therapeutic trauma interventions are available to children and youth in Manitoba, describing whether services require referrals and what their eligibility criteria are.
  • Create more youth hubs – In keeping with recommendation 4.8 of the Virgo Report, the province must establish more youth hubs outside of Winnipeg, providing access to community-based services like counselling, tutoring and extracurricular activities
  • Create “focal points” outside of Winnipeg – In keeping with recommendation 2.11 of the Virgo Report, the province must develop “focal points” outside Winnipeg, so that all Manitobans can have access to urgent and acute mental health and addictions clinicians and other professionals and services closer to their homes.
  • Create long-term treatment for youth with the highest needs – The province must develop an inpatient or community-based long-term treatment facility that offers stabilization, assessment, treatment and aftercare for youth at the top tier of mental health and addiction service needs.

July 14, 2021

States of Emergency

Tataskweyak Cree Nation

“Global News – Manitoba’s Tataskweyak Cree Nation declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, after nine young people were lost to suicide in the last 14 months alone. They asked federal and provincial authorities for urgent help and “immediate” supports for mental wellness and long-term solutions for its community. The community, which is connected by road to Thompson, has approximately 2,600 people living on reserve, with another 1,300 living off reserve.

The First Nation said that they have reached out for mobile crisis teams from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and the Keewatin Tribal Council, as well as requested help from Health Canada, Indigenous Services, the RCMP and the province of Manitoba. The community is asking for around-the-clock mental health counselling, a crisis drop-in centre and a commitment to protect young and vulnerable people from illicit drugs and bootlegging. Spence said that there have been several other factors behind the community’s crisis aside from drugs and alcohol.

The disruptions from a year of isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the recent discoveries of unmarked burial sites at former residential schools across Canada have had a major impact on the community’s mental health, Tataskweyak Chief Doreen Spence and other community leaders said.