Bruce Shisheesh, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, tweeted his gratitude Saturday for the "well wishes … from around the world" as his community in remote northern Ontario grapples with a suicide epidemic. The second part of his message suggests well wishes aren't enough: "Five more children yesterday evening" tried to kill themselves. That brings the number of suicide attempts in the community this month to about 16, the CBC reports, and a suicide pact involving 13 kids, including a 9-year-old, was thwarted earlier this week, the National Post reports. Last month, 28 members of the community of some 2,000 tried to kill themselves. In total, according to reports, there have been more than 100 suicide attempts since fall by people ranging in age from children to 71.
"We’re crying out for help," Shisheesh tells the Guardian. "Just about every night there is a suicide attempt." Two government officials, including MP Charlie Angus, are to visit Monday to talk to local leaders and young people. It's "a very unstable and volatile situation," Angus tells the CBC, adding that it's time for the Canadian government to "really get its act together." Overcrowding, substandard housing, drug abuse, and bullying have all been pointed to as contributors to the crisis. But many also point to the legacy of residential schools—abusive boarding schools that until about 20 years ago, per the Guardian, sought to "kill the Indian in the child" to force assimilation into Canadian society. "Our elders … didn't get the love that they needed," one teen tells the CBC. "They got beaten up; they got sexually abused." The result: "A lot of young people nowadays … feel unloved," she says.