Suicide crisis in Northern Saskatchewan sparks discussion about need for funding

By in Opinions

Six young girls have taken their lives in Northern Saskatchewan, all within a few weeks, causing heartbreak all over the province. A series of small tragedies have led to a suicide crisis in northern communities and people all over the province want to do something to help, but don’t know what they can do.

This tragedy comes in the aftermath of a similar suicide crisis in Attawapiskat First Nation last year, as well as the school shooting that took place in La Loche in January 2016. All of these tragedies make people wonder if there is enough being done by the provincial government to deal with the systemic issues present in the communities.

The communities affected by this crisis are in mourning and this is a time when the whole province needs to come together to show their support.

northern-suicidesThere is no doubt that what will help the children and teenagers in northern communities is funding for social programs and education. Funding for community services has slowly been cut throughout the years, and it is time for more funding to be put into areas like mental health. What is needed, however, is not a quick fix but a long-term investment that will benefit today’s youth and continue to do so for future generations.

Mental health support is the responsibility of the provincial government, and this is an area where most would agree that the province of Saskatchewan is falling short. However, with a new provincial children and youth advocate, there may be new hope.

Saskatchewan’s new children and youth advocate, Corey O’Soup, is focusing on this issue by making sure there is adequate mental health services and support in the northern communities. As well, Premier Brad Wall had a meeting with First Nations leaders in La Ronge at the start of November. Among the ideas discussed, there is talk of a $17 million centre for treatment, addictions, fitness and recovery services.

While provincial politicians are working on solving the bigger issues, university students and the general public are still wondering what they can do to help. A Saskatoon woman named Fran Forsberg had the same feeling and started a letter writing campaign, which allows people from outside of the communities to write cards or letters to send to the children in the affected northern communities.

Forsberg believes that it’s important for the youth in these communities to feel important and loved and that the letter writing campaign was the best way to achieve that goal. It is a powerful message to send to these children that they are not alone and that the whole province is thinking of them. Cards and letters can be dropped off at Grosvenor Park United Church in Saskatoon.

This is an issue that every person in Saskatchewan should care about. Although it is the responsibility of the provincial government to provide adequate funding for mental health support throughout the province, there is something that every citizen can do to help.

If you think that this crisis needs to be remedied, please speak to your local member of parliament about it. MPs are there to listen to what is important to the people in their districts, and it is important to let them know that a solution to this crisis is important to the people in Saskatoon and across the province.

Although it may not seem like there are a lot of ways for University of Saskatchewan students to be directly active in helping the suicide crisis, one way to make a difference in the long run is to be informed and to spread awareness of this tragedy and Indigenous issues in general. Discussing these problems and how to come to solutions is always an important step to making real change happen.

You can find your local MP as well as their contact information at parl.gc.ca.

Lyndsay Afseth

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor