Aboriginal group calls for more mental health funding in wake of Eskasoni First Nation suicides

An Aboriginal advocacy group is calling on Ottawa to put more money into a crisis line and mental health supports for a Nova Scotia First Nation that has seen a string of suicides recently.

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs says Indigenous Services Canada should provide more long-term funding for the roughly 4,500 people who are part of the Eskasoni First Nation and its distress line.

Chief Bob Gloade of the congress called the situation “extremely urgent,” almost a week after Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said multiple suicides have underscored the need for more health-care resources in the Cape Breton community.

At the time, Denny called on all levels of government to step up, noting that more long-term funding is needed for culturally informed mental health, trauma and addictions services.

The congress is asking for $600,000 in annual funding for the distress line, $150,000 for a clinical therapist, $75,000 for resources to support focus groups for people 20 to 40 years old and $90,000 for suicide prevention training.

Eskasoni health director Sharon Rudderham said the community has experienced multiple deaths, both expected and unexpected, intensifying its grief.

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