Suicide attempts rise in Canada aboriginal community in crisis

Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:22pm EDT
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By Ethan Lou

TORONTO (Reuters) - Five children tried to take their own lives Friday evening in a Canadian aboriginal community, its chief said, following other attempted suicides after he had declared a state of emergency over repeated such incidents.

Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the Attawapiskat First Nation in the province of Ontario confirmed the news in a telephone conversation on Saturday.

He said "a few" people tried taking their own lives in the community of 2,000 in the days before Friday, though he declined to go into specific numbers.

Those incidents are in addition to the dozen or so teenagers who attempted suicide on Monday.

The attempts came after Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency last Saturday, in response to 11 of its members attempting suicide in one weekend and 28 trying to do so in March.

Shisheesh declined to go into the details of the cases, citing privacy.

Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians. Health Minister Jane Philpott has said the suicide rates among aboriginal youth were at least 10 times higher than for the general population of young people.

Regional and federal governments sent healthcare workers to the community in response to the state of emergency.   Continued...

Youths from three First Nations communities cross the frozen Attawapiskat river during a march on April 7, 2016, in support of efforts to tackle a sharp rise in suicide rates, in Attawapiskat, Ontario, in this picture provided by Jackie Hookimaw-Witt. REUTERS/Jackie Hookimaw-Witt/Handout via Reuters