A number of northern Saskatchewan First Nations are grappling with tragedy after aboriginal leaders reported another young girl committed suicide.
Ariana Robert’s picture hangs in her mother’s Stanley Mission home, however she’s no longer here.
“She was an amazing girl, she was full of life … she enjoyed the outdoors, she was really caring and considerate,” said Sally Ratt, Ariana’s mother.
Ariana took her own life earlier this month at the age of 12. Her mother said Wednesday it’s the hardest thing she’s ever gone through.
“Her not being here and not knowing why,” Ratt said.
Ariana is one of four youth to commit suicide this month.
They occurred in Stanley Mission, La Ronge and Deschambault Lake. On Tuesday, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl in Deschambault Lake took her own life.
Ariana’s family says suicide has been a problem here in Stanley Mission and across northern Saskatchewan for years. They say now it’s time for officials to act.
“There would be so much more devastation if we lost more young kids to suicide.”
And officials in Ottawa say they’re taking notice.
“In Saskatchewan, there are multiple communities that has been affected by the recent suicides and we are making sure that mental health workers and other mental healthcare professionals are in those communities,” said Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott.
Health Canada issued a statement on the situation Wednesday evening.
On behalf of my Health Canada, we would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and the communities affected by the recent tragedies in northern Saskatchewan.
Over the past week, Health Canada has been in contact with Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge and local contacts in Stanley Mission.
We have also been in contact with Chief Peter Beattie of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in the wake of the latest suicide tragedy in Deschambault Lake.
For Stanley Mission and Lac La Ronge, Health Canada has deployed two nurses to provide relief support to the community health staff Health Canada is also providing supports to allow seven mental health therapists to travel weekly to Stanley Mission to provide counselling to at-risk youth, six days a week, on a rotational basis, until the end of December 2016.
The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and the community of Deschambault Lake are leading the response to the crisis in their communities supported by ongoing funding agreements from Health Canada. There are three mental health workers in this community, and two additional workers from Pelican Narrows have been deployed to Deschambault Lake for immediate support. Health Canada is committed to providing necessary supports to the community as requested.
Heath Canada will continue to provide mental health crisis counselling through the Non-Insured Health Benefits program. Support is also being made available through the Mental Wellness Team from Prince Albert Grand Council.
In Saskatchewan, there are currently four Mental Wellness Teams in place. Planning is currently underway to fund four new Mental Wellness Teams in 2017-18 for communities in Saskatchewan. This would bring the number of Mental Wellness Teams in the Saskatchewan region to eight.
In addition to supports on the ground, we have also launched a telephone crisis intervention line to provide immediate, culturally competent, counselling support for First Nations and Inuit, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Counselling is available in English and French and, upon request, in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktut. The new toll-free number for the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is 1-855-242-3310.
As of this morning, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line has received a total of 44 calls since it began operating on October 1, 2016.
We recognize the scope and seriousness of the mental health issues that are facing many First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada.
We are committed to engaging and working with First Nations and Inuit on mental wellness initiatives, and are renewing our commitment to working with them and our provincial partners to prevent further tragic loss of life to suicide.
If we can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Northern Saskatchewan leaders say they plan on setting up an operational centre in La Ronge to co-ordinate the response effort.
As for Ariana’s mother, she has this message for her late daughter.
“I love her and I miss her.”
Joel Senick contributed to this story