One of Sharon Lafferty's loved ones was medevacked to Yellowknife from Fort Resolution, N.W.T., last week because of a severe mental health episode.
Lafferty accompanied the person, and while in Yellowknife, she discovered that her longtime counsellor in Fort Resolution had been fired from his position. That's when she decided to draw attention to the lack of mental health services at home.
"I was hurt when they let him go because I have suffered from anxiety and depression," Lafferty said, citing many deaths of friends and family in Fort Resolution as the root of her mental health issues.
A letter dated Feb. 3 and obtained by CBC News says that Wilfred Simon, a wellness counsellor in Fort Resolution, was fired last week from his position with the Deninu Kue First Nation because of several work-related absences.
Louis Balsillie, chief of the Deninu Kue First Nation, declined to comment.
Fort Resolution down to one full time counsellor
Simon continues to offer informal counselling services for his clients from his home, but Simon said members in the community need more than just conversation to heal.
"They need support just to wake up today, and know that somebody cares for them," Simon said.
Fort Resolution is down to one full time counsellor who can create long term plans for their clients and, if necessary, refer more severe patients to extensive mental healthcare services in Edmonton.
Simon said there is still a program to help those suffering from addiction problems in the community, as well as a nurse and members of police who would be willing to help a community member in crisis.
There is also one mental health worker who comes through the community once every two weeks. Community members can book half-hour appointments with this mental health worker.
Lafferty said the current mental health worker is about to leave her position.
"That's a lot of progress for her clients and now they're changing over," she said. "It's not consistent."
One immediate solution Lafferty would like to see is for the territorial government to hire an additional social worker.
The N.W.T. Health and Social Services department said they could not immediately respond to a request for comment on the situation in Fort Resolution, but that they were working on one.
'The hurt is resurfacing'
Mental health in Fort Resolution is getting worse, Lafferty continued, because of the drawn-out residential day school settlement process. Many often relive their past trauma when filling out the forms — and she believes that Fort Resolution residents need as much support as they can get.
"The hurt is resurfacing," Lafferty said. "I don't want them to go through this alone."
Lafferty said she would like to see mental health programming as one of the policy areas negotiated under the Akaitcho land claim and self government process now underway.
Fred Sangris, the chief negotiator for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, told Yellowknife city council last June that the Akaitcho negotiations should be wrapped up sometime this year. Then, the First Nations involved, including the Deninu Kue First Nation, will be able to get access to the agreement-in-principle and provide feedback to negotiators regarding local priorities.
As for Lafferty, she said she is considering a move to Alberta so she can get better mental healthcare — if things don't change in Fort Resolution.