Suicide Crisis in Pimicikamak Cree Nation

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde

170 Youth on Suicide Watch List

WINNIPEG – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart are calling for immediate action to the address the crisis conditions in Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba which declared a state of emergency following the deaths of six community members by suicide since December and 170 young people on a “suicide watch” list.

“We need support workers and a crisis team on the ground now,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart. “The community and leadership know best what needs to happen and governments should be working with them and following their direction. We need urgent action to end this state of emergency, and we need to work with the community to create a new environment of hope and opportunity for our young people.”

Suicide rates among First Nations are much higher than those of the general population and youth suicide rates are increasing. Between 2005 and 2007, the suicide rate among youth aged 1 to 19 living in areas with a high First Nations population was 11 times higher for males and 21 times higher for females as compared to youth aged 1 to 19 in areas with a low First Nations population.

There are similar situations in communities across Northwestern Ontario where youth suicide rates are well above normal rates and communities are in crisis.

The AFN has established partnerships to provide guidance on the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy projects and activities being delivered on-reserve with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of preventing suicide and developing and implementing locally-driven community plans for preventing suicide in First Nations communities. The AFN continues to advocate for community-led suicide intervention programming that is inclusive of holistic and cultural approaches to mental wellness.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation, also known as Cross Lake, declared a state of emergency this week citing a wave of suicides and suicide attempts in the community. There have been six suicides since December 12, 2015, including four young people and a youth visiting from another community. There have also been numerous suicide attempts during that time. Leadership in the community report that individuals are exhausted and the community’s ability to deal with the situation is stretched to the limit.

“We are calling on the government to respond immediately to the situation the Pimicikamak Cree Nation is facing in northern Manitoba and provide any supports they require,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Lives are at stake. We need action now to ensure not one more life is lost or placed in danger and we need sustained, coordinated efforts to deal with the root causes.”

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