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Suicide strategy aims to help northern Metis youth.


Three communities in northern Saskatchewan are receiving a $300,000 boost from Health Canada's Aboriginal Health Transition Fund (AHTF) to aid the Ministry of Health and the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan(MN-S) in developing a youth suicide prevention project.

MN-S President Robert Doucette said his organization is dedicated to the well-being of its citizens and they look forward to developing partnerships for the strategy.

"We will work with the northern health regions to adapt services aimed at Metis youth suicide prevention. It is our mandate to ensure a healthy and productive environment for our youth to flourish and take part in society," Doucette said.

The project will place three health promotion coordinators in Cumberland House, Ile-a-la-Crosse and Buffalo Narrows to work with northern regional health authorities and the Northern Health Strategy working group to adapt provincial health youth suicide prevention services.

"It's a tremendous support for us in terms of developing good suicide prevention in the north," said Michelle LeClair-Harding, acting director of Health for MN-S.

"I think it'll make a huge difference in improving the quality of life for Metis people in the north," she added.

While the statistical data is going to be Metis-based, LeClair-Harding said she believes the results will help all northerners, and perhaps spread its benefits across the province. Funding will cover the first year of the project, and LeClair-Harding said hopefully funding continues so that findings and long-term solutions can be followed through.

Health Minister Don McMorris was emphatic that the government was committed to working with partners in order to reduce Saskatchewan's suicide rate.

"Suicide is considerably higher among our First Nation and Metis youth compared to the general population in Saskatchewan and Canada," stated McMorris in a press release. "The statistics are tragic, and we are looking for ways and working on means to help those dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide."

First Nations and Metis Relations Minister and Minister responsible for Northern Affairs, Bill Hutchinson, said he was also pleased to hear of the announcement because it shows the government's commitment to the health and well-being of our northern youth.

"The Government of Canada is concerned about the high rates of suicide among Aboriginal youth and this funding enables the Metis in Saskatchewan to take important steps toward adapting services to better meet their needs," said Rob Clarke, MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, on behalf of Leona Aglukkaq, federal Minister of Health.

"Through programs like the AHTF, we are enabling provincial and territorial partners to work with Aboriginal people directly to find community-based solutions for a broad range of issues, including local suicide prevention activities and crisis intervention options."

The youth suicide prevention project, underneath the leadership of the three health promotion co-ordinators hired, will develop an evaluation mechanism and a Metis Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. It will identify the extent of suicide risk among Metis youth, establish best practices and potential partnerships, and provide input into future provincial mental health initiatives.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is promoting the 24 hour HealthLine (1-877-800-0002) as a place to turn to for countering depression or suicidal thoughts. Their campaign slogan is 'There is Hope. There is Help. There are Answers.'


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Author:Ledding, Andrea
Publication:Saskatechewan Sage
Date:May 1, 2010
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