Fourth suicide involving young girl rocks northern Saskatchewan communities

Two girls from Stanley Mission and one from La Ronge — all between the ages of 12 and 14 — committed suicide earlier this month

DESCHAMBAULT LAKE, Sask. – Another young girl in northern Saskatchewan has taken her own life.

Grand Chief Ron Michel of the Prince Albert Grand Council says the latest suicide involves a 10-year-old child from Deschambault Lake, about 500 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

Michel revealed the news Tuesday to hundreds of shocked and saddened delegates at the council’s annual assembly in Prince Albert.

It comes after two girls from Stanley Mission and one from La Ronge — all between the ages of 12 and 14 — committed suicide earlier this month.

Michel says he wants dozens of northern communities involved in the council to talk to their young residents and create a plan of action to stop the suicides.

First Nations officials said last week that there had been numerous suicide attempts this month and that more than 20 youths were considered at risk.

Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Chief Peter Beatty, who is from Deschambault Lake, said it’s hard dealing with the suicides of people so young.

“They have so much life to live and so much to look forward to,” he said. “I think we have to come to terms with what’s happening in our First Nations communities because a lot of things lead to that.”

Beatty also said word about the suicides travels fast through social media, which makes it important for crisis teams to immediately deploy to work with peer groups of young people who take their own lives. He said the grand council has those resources available.

The provincial government has said some youth considered at risk of killing themselves were sent to Prince Albert to be assessed by a psychiatrist, while others were sent home with a safety plan and appropriate supports after they were assessed by a health professional.

Health Canada issued a statement last week saying it will help fund costs for three mental health therapists to provide counselling to at-risk youth on Fridays and Saturdays until the end of December.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, who is from Saskatchewan, has said suicides are happening far too often in northern communities.

He said the aboriginal youth suicide rate is five times the national average.

Earlier this year, a string of suicide attempts garnered international media attention in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario.