Health Canada boosts services to First Nations in ‘state of despair and crisis:’ FSIN

By Bryan Eneas
October 20, 2016 - 5:00pm Updated: October 21, 2016 - 6:35am

In response to the suicide crisis in northern Saskatchewan, Health Canada is stepping up its services in isolated communities.

The introduction of a new telephone crisis intervention line is one of a few steps Health Canada is taking to boost mental health services to people in northern Saskatchewan.

The help line is unique in the sense it provides First Nations and Inuit peoples an opportunity to speak with councillors who are “very attuned to the needs that they will encounter,” Jamie Bryan said, the acting director of Mental Wellness.

“(The helpline is) a team of highly certified councillors that includes nine indigenous councillors. All of the councillors have experience working and providing crisis councils working with First Nations Inuit or Metis people,” Bryan said.

Callers will be able to obtain service in English, and French, as well as Cree, Ojibway and Inuktut by request.

According to Health Canada, the community of Deschambault Lake is taking the lead when responding to the issue of suicide. Two mental health workers from Pelican Narrows have been added to the community’s existing services.

“We provide help, but it’s not our intention to take front and center on this.” Maryse Durette, a Health Canada official said.  “We really want the community to be the lead on this because of their efforts and their willingness to let us help them.”  

Health Canada officials stated two nurses have been deployed to Stanley Mission to provide relief support to the community’s health staff. Seven mental health therapists will also travel weekly to Stanley Mission. These therapists will be provided until the end of this year.

Durette said that after 2016, communities will still have access to the help they need.

Health Canada’s planned to add four additional Mental Wellness Teams in Saskatchewan on top of the four it already has.

Since the services were introduced at the beginning of October, 44 calls have been made to the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line.  

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations responds

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) issued a statement weighing in on the suicide crisis.

“Our young people are in a state of despair and crisis,” Cameron said. “The FSIN will help coordinate an action plan with the community leadership and their young people in efforts to prevent suicides.”

Chief Peter Beatty of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation said the community of Deschambault Lake is in shock.

“In the interim, we are assisting the family and community in dealing with the death of one so young,” Beatty said. “In the long term, we need to develop a strategy that incorporates an inclusive and holistic approach to addressing these terrible tragedies.”

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, said she is committed to working together to develop a suicide and wellness strategy for the communities.

“We are grateful to everyone who has worked so hard in helping us during our crisis situation. We continue to pray for strength and guidance,” Cook-Searson said.                                                                                                                

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.


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