New report shows suicides, drug-related deaths rising in Manitoba youth

Manitoba's newest Premier Wab Kinew is now ranked the most popular premier in Canada, netting a 57 per cent approval rating, but as Alex Karpa reports, some political experts say this is just a honeymoon phase.

A new report from the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) is showing rising cases of suicides and drug-related deaths in Manitoba among young people, as some are calling for more to be done to combat the deaths.

The annual MACY report found that during the 2022-23 fiscal year, 37 people under the age of 21 died from suicide.

The stat is the highest annual number of deaths by suicide among young people reported to MACY.

The latest number represents a 42 per cent increase from the 2021-22 number of 26 deaths.

According to the organization, during the thick of the pandemic when kids and young people had to stay at home, support systems in places such as schools were not accessible, leading to the decline of some young people’s mental health.

“It’s very shocking, it’s very sad. It’s a sad statistic,” said Sherry Gott, Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.

“The result of this, the mental health crisis in Manitoba, that the children, youth and young adults were experiencing, has been magnified.”

The report also found that 18 young people died from a drug overdose, another statistic MACY says is rising.

Joseph Fourre, who created the “No Thanks I’m Good” campaign following the death of his son Harlan, who died from fentanyl poisoning, says it’s important for young people to have an outlet as they experience challenges in their lives.

“It’s unfortunately really no surprise. What we have been finding is that fentanyl has really increased in the contribution to what they are calling overdose, I call fentanyl poisoning,” said Fourre.

“Youth are taking recreational drugs, whether it be ecstasy, molly, MDMA, expecting to have fun and dying because of the fentanyl poisoning that is happening within the drugs.”

The report also notes that 82 per cent of completed child death reviews were for an Indigenous child, youth, or young adult.

As the number of suicides and drug-related deaths increases among young people, MACY is calling on the province to do more to combat the deaths across the province, including implementing a youth-mental health strategy.

“Indigenous children are over-represented in the stats we have released. We all know that First Nations have been calling a state of emergency crisis throughout Manitoba,” said Gott.

In a statement to CityNews Minister of Housing, Addictions, and Homelessness Bernadette Smith said, “Our government is concerned about the devastating suicide rates of youth in Manitoba, and we are committed to ensuring more children arrive and thrive beyond their 21st birthday. We are currently implementing a provincially coordinated suicide prevention strategy including a focus on our relatives in Northern and Indigenous communities and 2SLGBTQ+ youth that are over-represented in these alarming statistics.”

Fourre added, “Our mission and going forward is just to reach as many youth as possible with this message that recreational drug use is not safe anymore and you can stay alive and stay safe with four simple words, ‘No thanks I’m good.’”

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