As government agencies make steps to meet the demands of the Lost in the Shadows report, leaders at Anaham Reserve are also ensuring additional mental health services are available for their community.
The Anaham band has employed a mental health counsellor to come into the community two days every two weeks.
She is the same counsellor who first arrived to work with community members immediately after the teen’s suicide in 2011.
“She works with young families and has an expertise in working with youth and suicide prevention,” Anaham band manager Dave Johnson said.
Presently the counsellor lives in Vancouver so it’s expensive to bring her to the Chilcotin, but Johnson pointed out there are lineups down the street at the end of the day when she is in the community for appointments.
The band hopes to expand her services and have other workers who will support her.
“Most people can understand poverty to a certain extent, but many of our communities are lacking in every aspect of mental health,” Johnson said. “It’s really important for us to ensure that essential services are being provided.”
Johnson said there have been a number of suicides in the past.
He said they are also dealing with a number of youth-at-risk as well as gang violence on reserve.
“The list goes on,” he said. “Where do you basically draw the line of where you are going to give the services needed to your own people?”
Johnson said Anaham is 100 kilometres away from Williams Lake, but there aren’t professionals who can come out on a weekly, let alone daily, basis so plans for the future include developing a mental health team on the reserve.
To pursue that hope, the community needs help from First Nations Health, and provincial and federal governments.
“This is a basic need across the province and the country,” Johnson suggested.
When Chief Joe Alphonse met with representatives from the MCFD, the Representative For Children And Youth and the First Nations Health Authority on March 27 in Victoria, he was told emergency funding will be provided so the mental health counsellor can continue coming to Anaham.
Alphonse said the new funding is a direct result of the Lost in the Shadows report.
“We don’t want more of these cases down the road,” Alphonse said of the teen’s death. “It is our responsibility to make sure our youth are the priority.”
When services are lacking, a lot of problems and issues are allowed to fester, he added.