Healing in Pikangikum stumbles

Little did I know as I was corresponding with those offices that at least three other community members died of suicide in Pikangikum early this year.

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I last wrote about Pikangikum in December 2014. Since then I’ve collected information from three government offices about what they are doing to combat the extraordinarily high level of suicide among young people in this indigenous community in northern Ontario.

I received many details from the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and Health Canada and feel guilty that I didn’t publish it before now. There just always seemed something else to do. So finally, some of that information is below; contact me if you would like to see the full responses.

Little did I know as I was corresponding with those offices that at least three other community members died of suicide in Pikangikum early this year. I haven’t confirmed this information with official sources, and it didn’t appear in a Google News search, but I’ve gathered it from reading two other blogs and one media article that focussed on housing in the community.

My previous post about Pikangikum was called What does it take to heal a community. I wrote, “it looks like positive things are starting to happen in the community”. And they still are – if you count the building of the school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.

My question now is: besides the school, are the millions of dollars being spent by various government offices, a portion of which is outlined below, a good use of resources? If yes, how do those same authorities respond to the latest suicide deaths in this community?

I will keep trying to answer those questions.

A selection of information provided to me by the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services:

  • A Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy was created;
  • $2.4 million was provided in 2011 to support telepsychiatry health services;
  • The Trilateral Mental Health and Addictions Working Group of the Trilateral First Nations Senior Health Officials Committee was established. The ministry and Health Canada provided $3 million to support implementation of its work plan;
  • In 2013-2013, the ministry provided $170,000 to support the Pikangikum Social Health Education and Elders (SHEE) Committee and the creation of a community development strategy.. The SHEE committee is an existing body that the government said the community wanted to work with instead of establishing a new steering committee as recommended in the coroner’s report;
  • A commitment of $3 million in annualized funding to develop and implement training supports for Aboriginal mental health and addictions workers;
  • The province is also implementing year two of Ontario’s youth suicide prevention plan to address the diverse and unique needs of their communities. The three-year plan includes … “dedicated support for First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Aboriginal approaches”.

A selection of information provided to me by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada:

  • From 2006-2007 to 2013-2014, AANDC provided over $140.6 million to Pikangikum First Nation for programs and services aimed at improving well-being and quality of life, including social and education programs. The First Nation is currently scheduled to receive over $30.4 million in 2014-2015.
  • On November 10, 2014, the federal government announced the awarding of the contract to design and build a new school for the community. (More information about the new school may be found at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=902459)
  • AANDC, Health Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs committed a total of $1,544,949 (cost-shared three ways, 2011-2012 through 2013-2014) to support the SSHE committee.
  • In January 2011, the department approved a Ministerial Loan Guarantee (MLG) in the amount of $1,728,000 for the construction of nine Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Section 95 housing units. The units were completed in June 2011.
  •  In July 2012, $2,090,000 for the construction of 10 CMHC Section 95 housing units. The units were completed in December 2012.
  •  On November 10, 2014, the completion of a seven unit multi-housing project.

A selection of information provided by Health Canada:

  • In 2014/15, Health Canada provided approximately $2 million to support implementation of many programs that support health and mental wellness in Pikangikum. It also provided funding to enable the completion of a community-led comprehensive health needs assessment;
  • In 2014/15 Health Canada provided $1.7 M to support National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (NAYSPS) programs in Pikangikum;
  •  The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and community mental health leaders embarked on a joint process in 2012 to develop the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum (FNMWC) framework. It was unanimously endorsed by AFN leadership in July 2014;
  • Private Member’s Bill C300 (Act Respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention) proposed that Canada develop a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention (FFSP) and acknowledge the issue as a serious public health issue. The Act received royal assent in December 2012. The Government of Canada is expected to report on progress related to the Framework by 2016.

Author: Marty Logan

I am a husband and father communicating to change the world. I write, edit and podcast, mostly about health and human rights. Canada and Nepal. https://linktr.ee/martydlogan

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