Sioux Valley declares state of emergency, requests mental health resources

After a rash of suicides and attempts this week, Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation has declared a State of Emergency. The community, located about three hours West of Winnipeg, now calling for immediate mental health support. Jonas Gilbart has more.

By Jonas Gilbart and Kelsey Patterson

WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – The chief of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation says the community is in a “time of crisis” following a series of suicides and suicide attempts over the past week.

Chief Jennifer Bone is asking the Manitoba government to immediately provide the community with additional resources, including more full-time mental health workers.

Sioux Valley, about three hours west of Winnipeg, issued a state of emergency Saturday night.

“We’ve had three suicides here in the community in the last week, since last Saturday up until Friday,” said Bone. “We’ve had a number of attempts. I think we’ve had four attempts that have been documented and reported to 911.

“We’ve requested additional funding for mental health workers, four full time. Currently, we only have one full-time mental health worker. Part of our whole crisis here is that we’ve requested assistance to help him, and also our front-line workers.”

Bone says one mental health professional on the reserve is simply not enough – especially this year and in moments of crisis.

“He’s overwhelmed,” said the nation’s chief. “And my heart goes out to him. And I want some assistance for him, to help him as well.”

While Bone could not outright blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s current situation, she says the virus has shone a spotlight on the underlying issues impacting mental health.

“We usually have annual celebrations like powwow ceremonies, Sun Dance celebrations and those kinds of things, and COVID has definitely impacted that,” she said.

The Red Cross and Health Canada have reached out to lend a hand, said Bone. But the nation’s chief wants to see concrete action from the provincial government.

She is also encouraging members of Sioux Valley – and anyone who may be struggling with mental health during these times – to reach out for help.

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