Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy on its way to First Nations

Taken from: MeadowLake NOW

Chiefs from Indigenous communities in the region were returning home Wednesday from The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Special Chiefs Assembly held this week in Ottawa.

Barry Matsuing Chalifoux, Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation Band CEO told meadowlakeNOW their trip to Ottawa presented funding developments in the youth suicide crisis.

“The Minister of Indigenous Services [Hon. Marc Miller] has offered to fund the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Regional Suicide Prevention Strategy to help with research and implementation of it,” Chalifoux said.

“What we’re dealing with is in part why they’ve made that decision. It was at the cost of our youth, which is terrible, but throughout this process our hope now is that other youth won’t have to go through this,” he said. “We won’t see other families lose lives and that this strategy, as it is implemented, will save lives.”

The office of the Minister of Indigenous Services issued a statement in an email:

The loss of life from suicide is a tragedy beyond measure.We must work with Indigenous communities, partners and experts to advance Indigenous-led approaches to mental wellness.

Yesterday and today at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly, the Minister committed that this government will work with groups like FSIN, AFN (and their National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy), NAN and any groups developing suicide prevention strategies to support the measures they bring forward. The Minister is asking officials to sit down and see what supports they need and how they can be implemented quickly.

This is a priority. We know the roots of suicide in Indigenous communities derive from a range of social inequities, and we continue to build on our past four years of work to improve education, employment, housing, and infrastructure that contribute to overall community wellbeing.”

MP Gary Vidal met with Makwa Saghaiechan leaders in Ottawa on the evening of Dec. 3.

“Gary is definitely one of the best politicians we’ve met thus far. He sincerely wanted to hear what we were going through and it didn’t seem like a political motive. He sat with us for two hours,” Chalifoux said.

“He’s offered to continue to advocate for us. It was his letter that helped get us to the minister’s office,” Chalifoux said. “Minister Vidal is probably one of the best candidates in this position as shadow minister for Indigenous services and we support him.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is in crisis, you can contact the 24-hour Prince Albert Mobile Crisis unit at (306) 764-1011 or the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. Services are offered in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktuk by request 24/7.

Warning Signs of Suicide:
• Suicidal threats
• Statements revealing a desire to die
• Previous suicide attempts
• Sudden changes in behaviour (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness)
• Depression (crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness)
• Final arrangements (such as giving away personal possessions)

Communities in need of mental health crisis counselling services can call 1-866-885-3933 ext. 4 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday to Friday.