Youth suicide and suicide attempts have become a major problem among First Nations communities living on reserves. In order to counteract this troubling trend, the Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Health Sciences has worked with the Swampy Cree Tribal Council to improve the understanding of the risk factors for suicide among Aboriginal populations and to determine individual, community and school –based interventions to reduce suicidal behavior. Now the Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team is ready to push their efforts further with a research study that aims to identify youth at risk for suicide.
This research project has now earned the support of RBC Foundation, who presented a cheque in the amount of $20,000 to project leaders Garry Munro, Executive Director, Cree Nation Tribal Health Centre and Dr. Jitender Sareen, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine on November 2, 2009. RBC’s investment will play a significant role in providing these First Nations communities with evidence for policymakers to make decisions that will reduce the risk of suicide among youth groups determined to be at risk.
“I hope this is a stepping stone to find answers and create healing among Swampy Cree children and communities,” said Holly Toupin, Regional Vice-President, RBC Royal Bank.
The RBC Foundation has had a long standing relationship with the University of Manitoba and First Nations Communities. One of their philanthropic objectives is making a difference in the area of mental health among children. The RBC Foundation has donated over $1.5 million nationally to this issue.
"This is an exciting and important project developed in active collaboration with Swampy Cree Tribal communities," said Dr. Sareen. “This new partnership with the RBC Foundation facilitates the capacity to do important suicide prevention work in remote communities.”
The Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team has already helped to implement the suicide prevention program, SafeTALK. Over the past year, they held community advisory meeting in eight Swampy Cree Communities. The program complements a two-day training program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) that aims to improve community members’ ability to recognize those who may be suicidal and to help them get care. The three-hour SafeTALK program is offered to the entire community and is designed to ensure that persons with thoughts of suicide are connected to helpers who are prepared to provide first aid interventions. In community consultations, there was overwhelming feedback that this intervention would be highly useful in First Nations communities.