C.B. Mi’kmaq community helping Attawapiskat First Nation overcome suicide attempts
A Maritime Mi'kmaq community is offering a helping hand to the Attawapiskat First Nation as it tries to overcome a rash of suicide attempts that are drawing national concern.
Eskasoni First Nation had a suicide crisis of its own in 2009 when a rash of young people took their own lives in the span of weeks.
Mental health leaders feel the lessons learned there could be a model used across the country.
"My mind went back to that dark time we had. I lost my first cousin to suicide back then,” says Eskaoni crisis leader Jai Lewis.
Things are better now in Eskaoni, but Sharon Paul-Rudderham, the band's health director, says she was angered watching a recent House of Commons debate on the crisis in Attawapiskat.
"It was heartbreaking for me to see that this was continuing in our country, and that there are no resources to support," she says.
One of the biggest changes made in Eskasoni following their suicide epidemic was the creation of a community crisis centre. Paul-Rudderham says the crisis line and other changes to mental health services in Eskasoni, are a model for First Nation communities across the country.
She believes her community's experience can serve as a source of hope for Attawapiskat.
Nova Scotia's Health Minister Leo Glavine agrees, pointing out that Eskasoni is among 12 of the “best practice” sites in Canada for Aboriginal youth mental health.
But with federal and provincial funding drying up, the centre is struggling to stay open.
"As time moved on, and our crisis moved away from the headlines, the funding then dried up," said Paul-Rudderham.
The province stopped funding the crisis centre because it introduced its own facility.
"Right now, we have across the province the crisis line, 24-7,” says Glavine. “That was made available in 2014. And we've been able to get good results from that."
But Paul-Rudderham says the provincial crisis line doesn't offer Mi’kmaq-specific services.
"Community members were telling us that we needed to move on, and that we needed to celebrate our community successes,” she said.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.