Wunnumin Lake First Nation officials are asking the federal and provincial governments to step in and provide immediate mental health supports as the community grieves following three deaths that took place over a 36-hour period.
Last week, a 20-year-old from Wunnumin Lake fell from a communications tower in the community, the cause of which is still under investigation.
A youth who witnessed the incident then later took his own life, according to officials, and after that, an elder passed away at a long-term care home outside the community, though the family wasn’t informed until a day after he died.
“Our community is under risk management to maintain community stability, but we require immediate and longer-term support to help us with the psychological trauma and impacts on our entire community,” Wunnumin Lake Chief Sam Mamakwa said in a statement Thursday.
“It is critical that the appropriate mental health and other supports are provided as quickly as possible to stabilize our community and help our members heal from these terrible events. We are doing the best we can, but the people of Wunnumin need to know that more help is on the way.”
The community’s leadership is asking the Canadian and Ontario governments to provide immediate mental health and intervention support, more policing and security to support people, and to work with the nation to establish frameworks to empower it to respond to similar emergencies in the future.
“We are very concerned for the welfare of the members of the Wunnumin Lake community as they grieve these terrible losses,” Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Derek Fox said in a statement.
“Tragedies like this have devastating effects in our First Nations communities, and people often have nowhere to turn for help.”
NAN, which represents Wunnumin Lake and 48 other First Nations in the area, said community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health care is essential for community members who are struggling.
The group also said it’s “unacceptable” that elders from remote First Nations are taken to long-term care homes in urban centres.
“They could be better cared for in their own communities near their families and friends,” NAN said.
Wunnumin Lake First Nation is a fly-in Oji-Cree community that’s located about 360 kilometres northeast of Sioux Lookout, Ont.