Call to improve Indigenous health care grows louder after 4 northern Saskatchewan suicides
October 20, 2016
The call to improve health care for Indigenous people is growing louder following the suicides of four young girls in northern Saskatchewan.
People learned on Tuesday that a 10-year-old girl in Deschambault Lake had taken her own life. The news came as people were still reeling from the suicides of three girls, ages 12 to 14, who died in the span of four days. Those girls were from Stanley Mission and La Ronge.
Communities in the north have since banded together, coordinating services as additional mental health support is sent to the area. More mental health therapists and workers, psychologists, nursing staff and health managers have all been made available.
An emergency operations centre has been also set up in La Ronge.
"Everybody's been doing a lot of good work and there's a lot of work that's been done already, but it's just coordinating all the efforts," said Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.
She said along with offers from the federal and provincial governments, people across Canada have been reaching out.
Greg Ottenbreit, the provincial minister responsible for rural and remote health, said a working group has already been put together to determine if support needs are being met in northern Saskatchewan.
"They're focusing on this situation, in particular, but making sure all the community resources are utilized in an efficient manner," Ottenbreit said.
Looking at critical needs
Margaret Kress, an assistant professor who works in the area of Indigenous education and wellness at the University of New Brunswick, was part of a team that researched health services in northern Saskatchewan, to assess current services and pinpoint shortfalls.
The team found critical gaps in treatment for depression and addiction, suicide prevention resources, and anti-bullying initiatives.
"Those three things were really kind of highlighted and people were really concerned about those issues."
The team developed a model for how to address the region's needs. It proposed a healing centre in La Ronge that would act as a hub for mental health services.
It also proposed that smaller communities should each have a safe house or a healing home that would be connected to the larger centre in La Ronge.
Kress emphasized that it's important to get grassroots input from the Woodland Cree people in order to provide the effective services ranging from addictions treatment to parent education.
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