Rash of suicides has left First Nation devastated

Sioux Valley declares state of emergency after suicides

October 14, 2020, 5:51 pm
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


The rising number of suicides in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is leaving the community in devastation as they acknowledge the lack of resources to aid the mental needs of the people living there.

Since last Saturday, three community members have taken their own lives, making a total of four suicides over this past month. This rash of suicides has led the First Nation to declare a state of emergency effective October 9.

“There has been a lot of grief and sadness. We are working to bring additional resources, offering grief and trauma counselling to those affected families, and we are trying to support them in their time of need,” said Chief Jennifer Bone of Sioux Valley on Wednesday.

“We are doing a lot more awareness of mental health and stressing the importance of reaching out to friends and families as well as having support systems in place. We are looking at offering more resources for our health centre.”

Chief Bone was unable to disclose the root cause of the deaths but noted there have been mental health concerns that were raised in the community for some time.

On October 9, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation chief and council sent a letter to Indigenous Services Canada and provincial Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Eileen Clarke, calling for immediate supports.

“We only have one full-time mental health worker. We need to receive more support for long-term sustainable funding that can help us address the needs of the community, the effects of intergenerational trauma, addictions and other social issues,” said Bone.

“The current funding, programming and services that we have right now is not adequate for our community, and we need federal support to address this crisis.”

Bone would like to see the government provide a funding incentive package to hire four equivalent full-time mental health workers as well as support for crisis line employed workers.
The First Nation has posted several helplines on its website, including the Sioux Valley Crisis Line at 204-512-0874 and 1-888-316-3511.

“I want to encourage our community members that they are not alone, and we are all here for each other. I as chief, our council and management team are doing our best to secure better quality services in mental health for the community,” said Bone.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) has offered their support and condolences to the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

“Especially now, in these most unprecedented times in a global pandemic, we must acknowledge that our mental health is of top priority,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas in a press release.

“We must flow the necessary resources to those who need it most, listen to those who reach out for help and support each other today and every day. There is no room for stigmatization in our Nations. Mental health is part of our health, and no one should be made to feel alone. We are all in this together.”

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is northeast of Virden, with a population of approximately 2,600.