Remote First Nations communities in Manitoba facing alarming suicide rates

Alarming number of suicides in Manitoba's remote First Nations communities. Getty Images

WINNIPEG —  A desperate shut down of a portion of the Trans Canada highway highlighted a crisis that is plaguing many remote First Nations communities.

Officials in the First Nations communities are speaking out about an alarming fact that is lingering throughout the remote communities.

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said suicide has been an issue for decades.

“The issue around suicide never really leaves our communities. It’s been looming over our young people especially for the last few decades,” North Wilson said.

First Nations communities are small and suffer from an alarming number of suicides.

RELATED: Northern Manitoba community declares state of emergency over suicide epidemic

With statistics like that, almost everyone knows someone who has or has tried to take their own life.

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North Wilson said this leaves the communities in a constant state of trauma.

“It never seems to break in that state of trauma,” North Wilson said.

Statistics provided by the Regional Health Authorities across the province show that in 2007-2011 the suicide rate in northern communities was nearly double that of Winnipeg.

MKO Grand Chief and Coordinator for new mental health group for MKO discussing alarming suicide rates. Zahra Premji / Global News

Theresa Yetman is the Coordinator of the Mental Health Wellness Coordination Initiative for MKO.

The goal of the new mental health initiative is to use the next three years to build relationships with all of the remote communities and addressing their needs.

But, Yetman said one thing is still desperately needed but hasn’t been created. She wants to see an organized crisis response group in remote communities as opposed to the temporary conselors and aids that are called to fly in in the midst of crisis.

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“You go to the nurses station to get a referral and even if it’s urgent you wait two months or three months before you get access to that,” Yetman said.


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