Canada’s Attawapiskat First Nation declares state of emergency after sharp hike in suicide rates

Local MP praises youth for moving to highlight the issue among the community affected

Aftab Ali
Monday 11 April 2016 11:59

An indigenous community in Canada has declared a state of emergency after a recent hike of suicides saw eleven people attempt to take their own lives in one day.

Known as Attawapiskat First Nation, community leaders came to the decision after a unanimous vote, according to local news site CBC News.

The Health Canada federal agency said it had sent two mental health counsellors to the area to help tackle the issue, reports BBC News.

The country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, took to Twitter to describe the news as “heartbreaking,” and said: “We’ll continue to work to improve living conditions for all Indigenous peoples.”

The region’s MP, Charlie Angus, said the situation was “brutal” and has been advocating families in the region to “fight against the suicide crisis.”

Mr Shisheesh told CBC News there were many triggers which could be to blame for the high number of suicides, including overcrowding in homes, bullying at school, and drug abuse.

Mr Angus took to his Facebook page to describe how more than 600 young people had tried to kill themselves since 2009, and said: “The government now says the latest round of deaths and attempts is heartbreaking. No freaking kidding it is heartbreaking. It’s a national scandal.

“Now comes the time for Canada to stand up and say that the days when some children in this country are less valuable then others must end.”

As well as the number of people who had attempted suicide on Saturday, CBC News reports that, overall, 101 people of all age groups have tried to kill themselves since September, with Mr Shisheesh confirming the death of one. The youngest was eleven, and the oldest was 71-years-old.

Home to around 2,000 people, the community reportedly saw 28 suicide attempts in March alone.

In an online post on Sunday, Mr Angus described how he would be pushing an emergency resolution for national action on the pandemic which has been “tearing through” northern communities. He said: “This crisis is not just an Indigenous issue, it is a Canadian issue.

“Youth are the future of our nation. How can a country like Canada sit on the sidelines as so many wonderful young people - some as young as ten - give up hope? We have to be there as a nation to give the resources and support to deal with this pandemic of death.”

He added: “A nation as rich as Canada shouldn’t leave it to the youth to save each other from the nightmare of a suicide epidemic. Our whole nation should be showing love, resolve, and solidarity.”

Grand chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council said he was “deeply moved” by the determination of youth in the region to support each other after it was reported a large group had taken part in a solidarity “healing march.”

NHS invest in mental health

He said: “I am calling on all Mushkegowuk citizens to support them and pray for their strength and safety. Please keep all our youth in your thoughts and prayers. These are our future leaders who will make our communities stronger and healthier in the years to come.”

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in the article, please visit the Samaritans site for help, support, and advice

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