A Councillor with a northern First Nation said the restrictions and life upheaval caused through the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an increase in depression, leading to more suicides and addictions.

Devin Bernatchez, with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band said job losses, stay at home restrictions have not helped people’s mental health.

“People have lost jobs. Mom and Dad have lost jobs. Kids were told to get out of school. Kids were told to learn online. Kids were told to mask up. Kids were told they couldn’t play sports anymore. So how does that affect depression? We’ve seen this pandemic increase suicide, that whole mentality in the depressed state in the north more so, said Bernatchez.

He explained that he came from Sucker River to Regina to raise awareness to suicides in the north, having lost his cousin five-weeks ago.

Bernatchez said he wants more on-reserve supports, programing and suicide prevention training, coupled with collaboration on the provincial government’s Pillars for Life suicide prevention strategy.

“We don’t see any action coming when it comes to suicide prevention. So it’s a need for us to raise the alarm,” Bernatchez said.

Yet, the Minister responsible for Mental Health and Addictions acknowledged there are challenges in providing programing in rural and remote communities, but the pandemic has strained resources. Everett Hindley said services were recently disrupted as the Sask. Health Authority had to shift staff to address the fourth wave of the pandemic, explaining there most likely is a backlog of appointments for mental health and addictions services.

While Hindley committed to going to the Lac La Ronge Indian Band to see first hand conditions there, Bernatchez is simply asking for a better partnership with the province in combating these crises.

(Photo: Devin Bernatchez-left)