Suicide crisis declared among Canadian aboriginal community | News | DW | 11.04.2016
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Suicide crisis declared among Canadian aboriginal community

Attawapiskat's First Nation community says it's alarmed at the number of attempted suicides by its members, including 11 on Saturday. A federal crisis team is flying to the remote James Bay to help local medical workers.

The emergency declaration was signed on Saturday by Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the remote northern community of 2,000 people, after 11 members of the Attawapiskat First Nation people tried to take their own lives in one day.

Local media reports that 28 people attempted suicide in March and around 100 attempts have been reported over the past eight months. Only one person has succeeded so far, Canada's national broadcaster CBC reported.

CBC also said that among the dozens of people attempting to kill themselves, the youngest was 11 years old, while the oldest was 71.

Canadian media highlighted growing inequality and a lack of opportunities within First Nation communities for the suicide crisis.

Charlie Angus, the MP for the remote area in Ontario, told the Reuters news agency that the alarm highlighted a "systemic crisis affecting the communities," adding that local and federal Canadian governments had failed to offer any "serious response" until now.

CBC reported that four healthcare workers were struggling to cope with the suicide attempts and avert future ones.

However, they had not had specialized mental health training and were "burned out", the broadcaster said, citing a local council official. No counsellors operate in the community, CBC said.

Ottowa's slow response

Canadian media said the regional First Nations government was sending a crisis response unit to the community following the declaration, along with two mental health counsellors.

The chief and council are to due meet later on Monday to decide how to proceed.

Local youths have held hope rallies in recent days to help local residents deal with the sense of despair that many are feeling.

Another First Nations community in the western province of Manitoba appealed for federal aid last month, citing six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

Canada's 1.4 million indigenous aboriginals, who make up about 4 percent of the population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, are more often victims of violent crime and addiction, and are more likely to be behind bars.