Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says Ottawa will “remain involved for the long term” with a remote Manitoba First Nation that declared a state of emergency due to a suicide crisis. 

Philpott told reporters in Ottawa Thursday, that the federal government is working with local and provincial authorities to address the crisis on Pimicikamak Cree Nation, known as Cross Lake.

“We have increased the number of travelling therapists who are available in the community, we have increased other mental health service providers,” she said. “There are four doctors available at this station who are supported by the provincial government and we’ve increased a number of other health services in the area.”

Philpott said members of her team have been in touch with Cross Lake community leaders on a daily basis, and the government will “remain involved for the long term.”

Shirley Robinson, the acting chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, declared a state of emergency Wednesday following the suicides of six residents in the last two months and several other suicide attempts in the last two weeks.

One of those who died was Robinson's 33-year-old cousin, who was a mother of three.

Robinson told CTV News Channel on Thursday that her whole community is overcome by grief marked by a string of suicides and suicide attempts in recent weeks.

She said the community, located about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is experiencing a profound collective grief, and local mental health workers are overwhelmed.

She and other community leaders are calling on both the provincial and federal governments to send more help, including at least six mental-health workers, a child psychologist, family therapist, counsellors and physicians.

“We want the government to act on our plea for help because our whole nation is traumatized right now,” Robinson said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of sadness and darkened spirits in our people and our youth.”

Robinson says there is no one cause of the despair in her community. The community is dealing with poverty, an 80 per cent unemployment rate, residual trauma among residential school survivors; and a disconnection from traditional culture.

“There is no single factor; it’s a combination of several factors,” she said.