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Manitoba seeing spike in youth suicide rate

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This report contains details referencing suicide some viewers may find distressing.

Communities and advocates are calling for change to help young people struggling with thoughts of self-harm.

Every day Sheena Girouard, Inner City Youth Alive’s Engage Education director, works with young people who've been out of school for several years.

"A good chunk of them are suffering with suicide ideation. Suicide thoughts. Some have plans. We made sure that we're trained to assist them,” Girouard said.

Girouard says isolation is a major factor.

"They're looking for somebody to listen to them. They're looking for their voice to be heard. To be validated. To be understood."

A new report from the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth shows 37 people 21 or younger died by suicide in the past year.

Sherry Gott, the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth says COVID-19 isolation impacted young Manitobans.

“Not being allowed to enter schools because of the pandemic and lockdown. I think just a culmination of that and the lack of resources in the area of mental health support,” Gott said. “Seventy per cent of the suicides were in First Nations communities where there is a lack of support and service.”

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee says First Nations youth need more resources to meet youth where they are, especially in northern communities where suicide is felt by the entire community.

“I think it has a more profound impact on small communities. Everybody knows about it and everybody is affected by it. And its small communities that are isolated,” Settee said. “We have to work with the educational system to make sure there is a program and there's a strategy to make sure to address these things before they're happening.”

Bernadette Smith - the minister responsible for mental health - said in a statement, “We are currently implementing a provincially coordinated suicide prevention strategy including a focus on our relatives in northern and Indigenous communities and 2SLGBTQ+ youth that are over-represented in these alarming statistics."

She says that includes listening to youth.

Kent Dueck - founder of Inner City Youth Alive - says there needs to be more resources dedicated to doing just that.

"It's something that you have to just be comfortable and well versed in just bringing up the topic,” Dueck said.

Dueck says the community is at a tipping point and things need to change soon.  

If you are in crisis and looking for support other than the police, you can call 211 to be connected to the appropriate agency or go to mb.211.ca to find a list of available crisis resources.

Help is also available from the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line at 1-877-435-7170 or by visiting reasontolive.ca.

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