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Sheshatshiu mourns as suicide crisis continues

The RCMP was notified of a possible person in distress in the water in between North West River and Sheshatshiu early Sunday morning, July 15.
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The Innu First Nation community of Sheshatshiu continues to mourn and look for solutions, after its council declared a suicide crisis earlier this week.

A 20-year old woman drowned in the town last weekend. The young woman’s funeral was held on Friday. The Innu Nation says there were 10 suicide attempts by young people following the passing of the young woman.

The death was preceded by the passing of an elder in the community which Anastasia Qupee, director for social health for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, says also had a major impact on the community of about 1,300 people.

“It is a very difficult time. We’re aware that with young people, it’s certainly very hard. Tension and emotions that are running, but we’re very fortunate to have good supports,” she said.

Qupee says the young woman was well-loved in Sheshatshiu.

“She had friends, she’s from the community. When you lose a young person in this way, it has a very large impact on the community. Not just with the youth, but with the whole community. When you come from a small community like ours, everybody feels the impact of this loss,” she said.

“We were already feeling the impact of the losses we had before, with the elders and people in leadership. There was a woman who was a significant leader in our community. We just lost her about a month ago. She’s been in leadership for 20 years. It’s a big loss for the community. On top of this tragedy, it’s an even greater impact.”

The first nation council office is being staffed 24/7 with support workers for those mourning in the town, says Qupee.

“This weekend coming we have our building open, we have counsellors there, and professionals that have come in from other organizations,” she said.

“We’re very appreciative of that. We’re hiring more community support staff to help with this. There’s a place that people can go to, people can speak to trained professionals.”

Premier Dwight Ball says the province is providing support today and will need to remain present in the community in the long term.

“This will take time. There is no overnight solution here. We’ve had discussions this week. In the situation that Sheshatshiu finds itself in today, we bring in the resources that are required for the short term, keeping in mind a long-term plan will be required,” said Ball.

“We see this in areas of the province – not to the degree of the conversation that I’ve had with the chief this morning – this is extraordinary. There’s no question this will require an extraordinary level of participation for both the short term and the long term.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com


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