Attawapiskat hit by another suicide attempt Monday morning: Chief

Attawapiskat hit by 11 suicide attempts on Saturday

(Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh says Attawapiskat was hit with another suicide attempt Monday morning. Facebook/photo)

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Another suicide attempt hit Attawapiskat Monday morning as provincial and federal officials scrambled to respond to an unfolding emergency gripping the Cree community in Ontario’s James Bay region.

Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh said officers with Nishnawbe-Aski police service showed up at his door Monday morning asking him asking for his assistance to deal with another suicide attempt.

“I am tired, overwhelmed,” said Shisheesh, in a brief cell phone interview from the Attawapiskat hospital.

Shisheesh wouldn’t say whether it was a youth or an adult.

Attawapiskat’s front-line health services are overwhelmed following 11 suicide attempts recorded in one day on Saturday. The community recorded 28 suicide attempts in the month of March.

Sheridan Hookimaw, 13, girl killed herself in October and her body was found outdoors by a patrolling police officer.

Sheridan Hookimaw, 13, was found dead outdoors in October.  Her death was determined to be a suicide. Family
Sheridan Hookimaw, 13, was found dead outdoors in October. Her death was determined to be a suicide. Family

Attawapiskat’s band council passed a resolution at 9:24 p.m. Saturday declaring the state of emergency.

“Community front-line resources are exhausted and no additional local and regional resources are available,” said the resolution, which was signed by Shisheesh and eight councillors.

Ontario and federal health officials were working on Monday to send a crisis team with mental health nurses and social workers to the community.

“We will be providing additional health-care experts as needed and we have contacted the ministry of children and youth services about providing emergency life-promotion supports,” Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said in a release.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a statement that improving the wellness of Indigenous peoples will require a focus on improving the socio-economic conditions they face.

“I have worked with the province to set up a joint action table so that federal and provincial governments can work together, hand-in-hand with First Nations leadership, to find concrete solutions,” Philpott said.

Health Canada said late Monday morning that two mental health workers were now in the community and three mental health workers were expected to land in Attawapiskat later in the day. The mental health officials were deployed with Health Canada funding through the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said a spokesperson with Health Canada.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also called for Ontario and Ottawa to deal with the unfolding crisis.

“The situation in Attawapiskat is sadly felt by far too many First Nations across the country,” said Bellegarde, in a statement. “We need a First Nations directed national strategy to address First Nations suicide rates and ensure our people are safe and thriving. We need a sustained commitment to address long-standing issues that lead to hopelessness among our peoples, particularly the youth.

Bellegarde said he had spoken to both Hoskins and Philpott urging their respective departments to act.

Attawapiskat has a population of about 2,000 people and sits about 90 kilometres away from a diamond mine operated by De Beers.


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-with files from The Canadian Press

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