Vice-chief Heather Bear announced the initiative with a focus on youth on World Suicide Prevention Day in Saskatoon.
“At FSIN, our chiefs, our leaders, we are the ones who get the calls immediately, it’s usually the second call, sometimes the first call. So we need to send a strong message to our youth that there are strategies that we’re coming up with,” Bear said on Sunday.
“We need the world to know that Indigenous people are taking action on their own. We don’t have to wait for government. If we wait for government, it will never happen … so we need to take action.”
FSIN said a discussion paper will soon be distributed to First Nations, MLAs, MPs and other organizations across Saskatchewan.
Research conducted for the discussion paper found that the suicide rate among First Nations women aged 10 to 19 is 26 times that of non-Aboriginal women.
“Our research based on data received from the office of the chief coroner has revealed that overall, the suicide for First Nations people in this province is 4.3 times higher than non-First Nations people,” Bear said.
“Health disparities of this magnitude is simply unacceptable. We will soon be releasing a discussion paper which will be widely disseminated across the province. Feedback on the discussion paper will help us craft and draft a suicide prevention strategy.”
Bear said FSIN has a mental health technical working group that’s representing this project and Dr. Jack Hicks will assist them by making sure they have the most recent research.
“As somebody new to the province, I would like to acknowledge the leadership being shown by vice-chief Bear and the entire FSIN leadership. What they’ve committed to doing by the end of May is to release the first provincial First Nations suicide prevention strategy in the country,” Hicks said.
“This will require all levels of government to do things better and differently in a matter that will be guided by the strategy.”
Bear hopes that when the strategy is complete, government will fund the evidence-informed programs and services to reduce suicide not only in their region but throughout Canada.
“The strategy will incorporate lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have actually reduced their suicide rates, build on the strength and resilience in our communities, acknowledge and reflect our treaty right to health, the TRC recommendations,” Bear said.
“It is my vision that the next generation, they will never have to deal with this problem or issue again.”
The strategy is expected to be released by May 31, 2018.