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First Nation community declares state of emergency after spate of suicide attempts

A First Nation community in a remote part of Ontario has declared a state of emergency after 11 of its residents attempted to commit suicide Saturday.

CBC reports the Attawapiskat First Nation, which is home to about 2,000 people near James Bay, recorded 28 suicide attempts in March and has seen more than 100 suicide attempts since September.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the most recent suicide attempts “heartbreaking.”

The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett and Ontario’s Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins also pledged to do whatever they could to support the Attawapiskat people. In the short term, the local emergency declaration allows for increased assistance to the area.

On his Twitter account, Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh said Monday morning that a regional health organization was flying in a crisis team, mental health nurses and social workers.

The high suicide rates have been linked to a variety of factors, including sexual abuse, drugs, bullying at school and overcrowded housing, according to CBC.

Suicide among native populations has long been a problem, both in Canada and the U.S.

Canada’s health ministry estimates that First Nations youth commit suicide five to six times more often than “non-Aboriginal youth.”

In the U.S., a recent study revealed the suicide rate among American Indians is nearly double the general population.

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