FSIN says youth suicides tied to loss of spirit

By Spencer Sterritt
April 11, 2016 - 4:43pm

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) believes there immediately needs to be a culturally responsive action plan to curb the recent spate of suicides.

The FSIN executive responding to the declared state of emergency on the Attawapiskat First Nation,

“We need all levels of government talking and planning about what we need to do immediately, short-term and long-term,” FSIN vice-chief Bob Merasty said. “A holistic approach would better serve the needs of both on and off reserve First Nations.”

Merasty said the FSIN is currently engaged with several different organizations, such as the Northern Health Services Division and the Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health initiative, working towards a solution to the suicide crisis facing First Nations communities.

“A multi-sectoral approach is needed, bringing in the areas of education, justice, sports and reaction and the health and social development fields to develop concrete solutions that will address suicide and suicide ideology.”

Merasty said more needs to be done in multiple areas, such as collaborative discharge planning when patients leave mental health facilities, mental health home care programs designed to help families and the patient experience of those in acute mental health care units.

For him, the increased suicide risk can be traced to the loss of youth “spirit.” He said when youth are born they are given a spirit, and somehow First Nations youth have lost their spirit and their identity.

“A lot of these communities, there isn’t the hope. I think quite honestly the youth look at each other for support, and when the conditions look bleak and there’s no hope, they choose to do it together.”

Merasty said Sturgeon Lake First Nation had been chosen as a pilot site for a new approach dealing with mental health among First Nations.

paNOW will be investigating further into the issue, and will have local reactions and features in the next coming days.

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On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

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