Indigenous leaders offer solutions to suicide epidemics
REGINA – “This is an immediate call for action. There’s urgent crises happening not just in Attawapiskat, but in many communities,” Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) second Vice Chief, Robert Merasty, said.
Merasty has taken every opportunity available to speak out about the recent suicide epidemics happening across the country.
This week, the remote Ontario community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency, prompted by 10 suicide attempts last weekend, and a suicide pact by 13 youth on Monday night.
In Manitoba, Pimicikamak Cree Nation has had six suicides in the last two months and over 140 attempts in the last three weeks alone.
In Saskatchewan, MP Georgina Jolibois says the community of La Loche is also walking a dangerously fine line. She said young people in La Loche are attempting suicide, and many are also showing signs of post-traumatic stress following the shooting death of four locals in January.
Jolibois said not enough mental health resources are being put into helping the community cope.
“There have been a lot of discussions,” Jolibois said. “Discussions are terrific, but the community is looking for concrete plans. Members are asking for help, and they want to be able to have access to services.”
For Merasty, the lack at attention to the problem is a tragedy all on its own.
“For them to get to that degree where they want to take their own lives, we have to do something now to reach out to these young ones,” he said.
He thinks the problem stems from a lack of cultural identity and sense of self.
First Nation traditions says when we’re born, the Creator gives us a spirit. In order to live a wholesome life you must walk with the spirit in a way that balances your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs.
“When those things aren’t being met, there’s no balance in life and they’re not feeling fulfilled, and they’re not feeling hope. They’re just feeling despair,” he said.
Merasty wants elders and government to meet together and bring this traditional culture back to the next generation of Indigenous youth.
“Meantime though, perhaps a help-line for when kids really need it,” he suggested. “A 24-hour help-line they can call and say, hey I need to talk to someone. I need to talk to an elder. Can you help me? I don’t know where I’m going.'”
“Allow these young ones the opportunity to come and talk to someone. We need to provide these young ones with that opportunity.”