Corey O’Soup. Photo by Manfred Joehnck.

It will take three or four months before Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate completes his report on what needs to be done to address a youth suicide crisis facing a number of isolated northern First Nations communities.

Corey O’Soup is back in the north this week. He’s meeting with children, community leaders and mental health workers in a number of communities, including Big Island Lake and the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. It’s all part of a northern road trip that began earlier this month.

O’Soup says what makes this exercise so productive is that people, both young and old want to talk and want to find long-term solutions. He says he does not want to rush his report and he wants to make sure, more than anything, that children and youth have their say.

“For me, I think the number one thing we need to do in this report, is we need to get youth voices in it,” he said. “Because they are the ones that have the solutions and they are the ones that know what is going on in their heads.”

O’Soup is also expressing concern about how a government hiring freeze will impact the north, not just in terms of filling vacant social service positions, but other vacancies as well.

“I think recruitment and retention for all of our people in the north is a big concern, whether it’s our education or whether it’s our health facilities, it’s a concern no matter where you go.” he said.

During the month of October, six young aboriginal girls between the age of 10 and 14 took their own lives. Since then, there has been a coordinated effort to provide mental health support and other services to the communities impacted.

O’Soup says his report will look at what needs to be done, not just now, but in a sustainable long-term approach.