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Emergency over suicide attempts in Canada’s aboriginal community

world Updated: Apr 12, 2016 01:37 IST
HT Correspondent
File photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has described the news of  a spate of attempted suicides among the Attawapiskat First Nation people as “heartbreaking”.
File photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has described the news of a spate of attempted suicides among the Attawapiskat First Nation people as “heartbreaking”.(AP)

A community in Canada declared a state of emergency after 11 people attempted suicide on Saturday and March recorded an average of nearly an attempt a day.

The Attawapiskat First Nation, located in James Bay in the province of Ontario, took the measure after being “overwhelmed” by the more than 100 people who tried to kill themselves over the past eight months, according to Canadian national broadcaster CBC.

One person died among those that attempted suicide.

The community has approximately 2000 Cree residents. CBC quoted its chief Bruce Shisheesh as saying: “I’m asking friends, government, that we need help in our community.”

In response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “The news from Attawapiskat is heartbreaking. We’ll continue to work to improve living conditions for all indigenous peoples.”

Canada’s First Nations are the 1.4 million indigenous or aboriginal people who make up almost 4% of the country’s population. They have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy. They are also victims of violent crime and addiction.

Canada’s health minister Jane Philpott said she was “deeply distressed by this news” and was “reaching out” to the ministry team and partners to “find solutions”.

Among the triggers attributed to this spate of suicide attempts are drug abuse, overcrowding in homes and bullying.

Shisheesh said: “We have people that are on prescriptions. We have people that are selling pills. And I believe that’s how some of them have withdrawals and they feel unwanted, or they don’t know how to express their feelings and they have to use a drug to drown their problems or their pains. And when you don’t have money to buy drugs, that’s when they turn to suicide.”

The federal and the Ontario provincial governments have announced they are sending emergency medical personnel to the area and the crisis teams will include mental health nurses and social workers.