Suicide Prevention: Current Problems

States of Emergency

December 5, 2019


Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Radio-Canada: Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told Chief Ronald Mitsuing, that Ottawa would financially support the suicide-prevention strategy released last year by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan…billed as the first “decolonized First Nations-led approach” to suicide prevention and intervention in Canada.

December 5, 2019


Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation

980 CJME (Canadian Press): Ronald Mitsuing, chief of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northern Saskatchewan says he is disappointed at the lack of long-term help from the provincial and federal governments to deal with what he says is a suicide crisis. The leaders are concerned about what they are calling “cluster suicides” in their community of Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

They say there have been three suicides, including one by a 10-year-old girl, in three weeks and eight suicide attempts, mostly by young people. The Opposition NDP has put forward a private member’s bill that would create a suicide prevention strategy. Its leader says the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to act on reducing poverty and developing economic opportunities in the north.

Band CEO Barry Mitsuing Chalifoux said an ongoing strategy would better help prevent suicide crises and give local governments ideas on what resources could be of help in their communities. The First Nation wants parenting programs and funding to hire additional supports in order to monitor its youth, he said.

In the fall of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called several suicides by children in northern Saskatchewan a tragedy. Four girls between the ages of 10 and 14 had taken their own lives over a short period of time.

May 18, 2021


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.

October 29, 2019

Fed. Govt., NL

Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation

CBC: Failure to approve funding requests over 20 years ago to build infrastructure and capacity in mental health counselling, social work, education etc. in a community whose average age is now 21, less that 50% of the average age of the broader population of 46.

Chief Eugene Hart declared a suicide crisis in the Labrador Innu community of Sheshatshiu after 10 people between ages 12 and 18 attempted suicide. Those attempts came on the heels of a 20-year-old woman’s drowning death the previous weekend, as well as the loss of 14 community members to natural causes over the last year.

July 14, 2021

Fed. Govt., MB

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.

June 30, 2021

Fed. Govt.

The Matawa Education and Care Centre

The Matawa Education and Care Centre (MECC), – formerly, the ‘Matawa Learning Centre,’ yesterday released their report entitled ‘Matawa Education and Care Centre 5th Annual Report on the Seven Youth Inquest – Academic 2020-2021.’ For the first time—it included an alert regarding MECC’s potential inability to meet inquest recommendations 64, 71, 81, 83, 84, 85, 114 as a result of the lack of federal government commitment to funding the Jordan’s Principle and Choose Life programs past March 2022. The continuation of these programs has been advocated over the past number of months and more recently, in a joint Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) letter to Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller on June 10, 2021.

Impact on First Nations Youth On Reserve: The Government of Canada’s Jordan’s Principle Program and Choose Life Program also fund successful suicide prevention programs and services within each of the following Matawa First Nations in which our students call home:

  • Aroland First Nation
  • Constance Lake First Nation
  • Eabametoong First Nation
  • Ginoogaming First Nation
  • Long Lake 58 First Nation
  • Marten Falls First Nation
  • Neskantaga First Nation
  • Nibinamik First Nation
  • Webequie First Nation

Without this commitment, MECCC will lose the following programs and services for its students:

  • Mental Health Staff and Services;
  • Special Education Staff and Services;
  • Outdoor Education Staff and Services;
  • Elders Program;
  • Cultural Program;
  • Staff Professional Development;
  • Student Education and Training;
  • a partnership with St. Joseph’s Care Group which includes in-school access to a:
  • Clinical Supervisor;
  • Mental Health and Addiction Counsellors;
  • Child and Youth Workers;
  • Nurse Practitioner;
  • Psychologist;
  • Family Therapist and
  • a Psychiatrist.

“It is incumbent upon Canada to provide funding via a stable and predictable mechanism that allows for long term strategic planning and discretionary decision making as stated in Inquest Recommendation #12,” said MECC Principal, Brad Battiston. “Stable reliable funding moving forward will provide adequate academic and mental wellness programming for our students.

Other Current Problems By Theme

Suicide Prevention Plans

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No Child Left Behind

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Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities

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