Red Cross to support Fort Simpson community mental health

·2 min read
Petty crime, drinking and violence are on the rise in Fort Simpson since last May's flooding, according to its mayor, Sean Whelly. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC - image credit)
Petty crime, drinking and violence are on the rise in Fort Simpson since last May's flooding, according to its mayor, Sean Whelly. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC - image credit)

Fort Simpson will soon get assistance from the Canadian Red Cross to support the mental health of its community members.

In the aftermath of the flooding earlier this year, Mayor Sean Whelly said the village is seeing an increase in petty crime, drinking and violence. The Red Cross program will assess the community's needs, and work with leaders on how best to meet them.

The project will cost more than $100,000. Whelly said the price tag is easily worth it for the well-being of residents.

"If you asked me, 'would it be worth $100,000 to stop one person from committing suicide in Fort Simpson?' I would say, 'yes, that would be a very cheap price to pay,'" he said.

Anna Desmarais/CBC
Anna Desmarais/CBC

On Monday, Whelly got news that United Way N.W.T. would be covering $75,000 of the expenses. For the rest, he said he would look to other contributors or the village would fund the balance.

"The money seems almost insignificant from the standpoint of, can we get people back on more solid footing," he said.

Jacq Brasseur, the flood support coordinator with United Way N.W.T., said that in working with Fort Simpson in the wake of the flooding, the need for wellness and mental health support has been an issue raised from the start.

Brasseur said the United Way received the final draft of Fort Simpson's proposal for the Red Cross program last week and the board granted the request Monday.

Submitted by Val Nahanni
Submitted by Val Nahanni

Support plan

In its proposal, the Red Cross said it plans to speak with individuals "to understand where they are at in recovery and community wellness as a whole."

It said that given the recent flooding, the ongoing pandemic and the previous existence of two residential hostels, "cumulative impacts to mental health and wellbeing are of concern."

The organization will seek to identify existing resources as well as barriers to access. It plans to then work with the community to further build its resources and train residents to fill gaps in order to build capacity within Fort Simpson.

The proposal lists the municipality of Fort Simpson and Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation (LKFN), but Whelly said the village would "expand the scope" to include Jean Marie River.

"While they wait for their own houses and buildings to be redone, they're facing all the same challenges," he said.

While Whelly wasn't yet sure of an exact timeline, he hopes the Red Cross will arrive in Fort Simpson in the coming weeks.

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