Suicide attempts increase for aboriginal Canadian kids

  • 17/04/2016
People take part in a march and candlelight vigil in Attawapiskat. (Reuters)
People take part in a march and candlelight vigil in Attawapiskat. (Reuters)

Five children have tried to take their own lives in a Canadian aboriginal community of 2000 that has declared a state of emergency over repeated suicide attempts, its chief says.

Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the Attawapiskat First Nation in the province of Ontario confirmed the news in a brief telephone conversation on Saturday. It was not immediately clear how old the children are.

The remote northern community took part in a march and candlelight vigil after Mr Shisheesh declared a state of emergency last Saturday. This followed 11 of community members attempting suicide in one weekend and 28 who tried to do so in March.

About a dozen teenagers in the community attempted suicide on Monday, after the declaration.

Regional and federal governments sent healthcare workers to the community in response to the state of emergency.

Canadian legislators held a special parliamentary session on Tuesday night to address the suicide attempts, calling them "completely unacceptable" and vowing steps to keep them from happening again.

Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about 4 per cent of the country's population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

Canada's Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said in a statement on Friday she would visit the community.

Mr Shisheesh tweeted hours later: "Busy night at the hospital ... pray for Attawapiskat."

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.