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Teen Suicides Rock Eastern Ontario Town

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A series of suicides have plagued the town of Pembroke, Ontario. | alamy

Residents of Pembroke, Ont., are devastated and looking for answers after three teenagers committed suicide over the last four months.

Community members, including many parents and students, met Tuesday evening in Pembroke, about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, to discuss how to tackle concerns surrounding teen suicide.

The issue has reached its peak in the city of just under 15,000 people, according to many, and the biggest obstacle is finding treatment once a problem is identified.

Monique Yashinskie's son Robbie Dean, 18, committed suicide on Aug. 19.

Yashinskie said her son struggled with depression, but she could not find the right help.

"We were looking for help and we couldn't find it, and nobody had answers for us, and it seems sometimes we were just shrugged off," Yashinskie told the CBC's David Gerow.

The mother even called in mental-health experts from Ottawa's Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to help her son. She called them again to help lead the Tuesday discussion.

Yashinskie said she wanted other parents and community members to be educated about suicide, and the discussion attracted hundreds of interested parents and teens.

Pembroke lacks mental-health resources

But even that would not have saved her son, Yashinskie said. The resources in Pembroke are also sparse, which forced her to take her son to CHEO, about two hours away, to help treat his depression.

"It's a huge concern," said Dr. Greg Lubimiv, a psychiatrist with Pembroke's Phoenix Centre for Children and Families.

"As an under-resourced sector in terms of children's mental health, we're really trying to find ways of meeting the need that doesn't leave people waiting for three months, six months, nine months," he said.

"It really doesn't provide a service to those who are in pain."

The Phoenix centre has received 10 times more calls in the last three years, according to Lubimiv, but has not received any increases in funding.

The centre did recently increase its capacity with a small funding boost, but Lubimiv assured that will be short-lived.

Are you in crisis? Need help? Find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.

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