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State of emergency declared in Shamattawa after suicide death May 9 and attempt by a child May 17

Remote Shamattawa First Nation in northeastern Manitoba declared a state of emergency May 18 after one suicide and one attempt by a child who is currently in hospital within less than 10 days.
shamattawa chief eric redhead may 18 2021
Shamattawa First Nation Chief Eric Redhead speaks on Zoom May 18 about declaring a state of emergency after one recent suicide and one suicide attempt by a child in the remote northeastern Manitoba community.

Remote Shamattawa First Nation in northeastern Manitoba declared a state of emergency May 18 after one suicide and one attempt by a child who is currently in hospital within less than 10 days.

A single mother of four died by suicide on May 9, said Chief Eric Redhead, and on Monday night a 7-year-old child attempted suicide and is currently unresponsive in hospital in Winnipeg. Redhead said during an online press conference regarding the emergency declaration that the woman who died was his sister and only sibling.

“The concerning thing is when se have one we often see a copycat or domino effect and we’re concerned about that,” the chief said.

Keewatin Tribal Council’s mobile crisis team is arriving in the fly-in community today and the Manitoba Kewwatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) crisis team is expected to arrive in the next day or two but Redhead said he has appealed to Health Canada for additional supports including child and adolescent mental health therapists.

“That’s my main concern right now is the children of the community,” he said.

As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Redhead said he hadn’t heard anything of substance from the federal government.

“The response that I’ve received so far is typical response of the federal government,” said Redhead. “It’s fluff. ‘We’re here for you,’ that kind of stuff. I’m not satisfied until I see results.”

Part of the reason the community needs additional help is because health staff have recently dealt with multiple natural deaths in the community, where one burial was happening today and the bodies of two more community members are expected to arrive on Wednesday.

“That overlapping grief for our service providers overall, it’s just overwhelming,” said Redhead.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the situation in the community is critical.

“It is very troubling when I hear of a 7-year-old attempting to take their life,” said Settee. “If that doesn’t shake anybody up, I don’t know what will. Everything at our disposal must be given to this First Nation."

Assembly of Manitoba Chief Grand Chief Arlen Dumas supported Redhead’s calls for additional supports to deal with the situation.

“We call upon the federal and provincial governments to help with this statement of emergency that has been called by Shamattawa and flow the necessary resources to First Nations so that they may develop community intervention plans to deal with pandemic-related stress and the deterioration of mental health of their citizens,” he said. “No one should be made to feel like they are alone. We are all in this together.”

Resources for people who are dealing with mental health issues or emergencies include Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, the www.reasontolive.ca Manitoba suicide prevention and support line at 1-877-435-7170 and the First Nation and Inuit Hope for Wellness line at 1-855-242-3310.