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CANADA

'It's their cry for help': Hopes high as Sask. child advocate releases youth suicide prevention report 

Young people interviewed from 12 northern Sask. communities about suicide causes, possible solutions 

The office of Corey O'Soup, the province's first Indigenous child and youth advocate, spent the past year interviewing young people from 12 northern communities about the root causes of suicide and possible solutions after six girls between the ages of 11 and 14 took their own lives in October 2016.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who represents six northern Saskatchewan communities, welcomes the findings.

"It's something that we've always talked about and something that we've always wanted," Cook-Searson said. "We're really grateful."

O'Soup's report is predicted to include a number of recommendations for the federal and provincial governments.

"He [O'Soup] came out with something that hopefully will benefit all of us," said La Ronge Mayor Ron Woytowich, who has temporarily stepped away from his duties for medical reasons. "It's whether or not the government has the funds."

The federal government has already cut back on its share to the community's Kikinahk Friendship Centre, where Woytowich estimates up to 80 young people gather each evening.

Youth co-ordinator Rory Ballantyne said the centre has had to reduce its programming, including traditional hunting. "It's crazy considering I live in the north," Ballantyne said. "That could be an outlet for some kid."

More is needed to improve youth mental health, according to Woytowich, including more activities, housing and mental health support.

'We have to do something'

"These kids at a certain age don't see a future," Woytowich said. "They don't understand that it can be better."

It is difficult for young people to express their concerns unless they have built a rapport with someone, Cook-Searson explained. She is calling for the provincial and federal governments to implement consistent mental health treatment, and to act on the findings outlined by youth in O'Soup's report.

"It's their cry for help," Cook-Searson said. "We can't ignore it. We have to do something and we have to do it today."

By Olivia Stefanovich

5 December 2017 

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