Objectives: To review a cluster of suicides and suicidal ideation in a First Nations community.
Method: The medical records and autopsy reports of the victims are reviewed. Collateral information obtained in the community is presented. A series of psychiatric assessments conducted at the local health centre in a 3-day period is outlined. The dilemma of developing appropriate treatment plans is discussed.
Results: In the period from February 3 to May 5, 1995, an isolated northern Manitoba First Nations community had 6 suicides in a population of less than 1500. Several other suicide attempts occurred. Community resources were strained. Alcohol was a factor in 4 of the suicides. Previous sexual assault was cited in 4 of 5 female cases presenting with suicidal ideation.
Conclusions: Cluster suicide is a shared psychiatric and public health problem of major concern. Dreams of beckoning are common following a suicide. Communities should have a prepared plan to deal with a suicide. Resources should be provided quickly in an effort to prevent a cluster of suicides from occurring. High-risk individuals must be identified. Substance abuse must be addressed. Resources to assess and treat victims of sexual abuse must be available.