Due to lack of accessible resources and counsellors in Indigenous and northern communities, there are constantly states of emergency declared in those communities. Almost every Indigenous person has been affected by suicide in some way, whether it’s a friend, family member, classmate, or they’ve experienced those thoughts themselves.
Mental Health is wildly underfunded for Indigenous communities, and due to colonization there are many communities that conform to religious views that suicide is not something to be talked about, leading to stigma and shame. Youth don’t have enough spaces of safe people available to them to safely talk about suicide in a safe and constructive way.
Background & Context
- Intergenerational effects coming from years of trauma still affect people today - those who never attended residential schools or were not part of other systemic forms of violence/colonialism are still affected by it due to unhealthy coping mechanisms or re-traumatizing actions throughout the generations.
- Nunavut has the highest rate of suicide in Canada
- The most recent Statistics Canada data shows that the suicide rate among children and teens in the Inuit homelands was 30 times that of youth in the rest of Canada between the five-year period from 2004 to 2008.
Who is affected?
- Life as an Indigenous person - regardless of age, gender, or location - is usually tough
- Indigenous children & youth, Indigenous people living in remote communities, Indigenous people living under the poverty line, Indigenous people suffering from intergenerational trauma, Indigenous people suffering from mental health issues, and Indigenous members of the LGBTQ2S community.
Who is making change?
- Chief and Council
- Prime Minister
- Cabinet Ministers
- Political Parties: New Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party
- AFN – Perry Bellegarde; ITK – Natan Obed; MNC – Clement Chartier
- Legislative Committees
- Cindy Blackstock
What is being done now?
- In June, 2017 the House of Commons Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs issued a report entitled “Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities”
- The report included 28 recommendations which you can see here
- The federal Ministry of Health produced an overview of federal initiatives in suicide prevention; you can see it here
Party Platforms & Positions
- Liberal Party of Canada has stated that they will continue to work with Indigenous communities organizations, and nations on ways to begin healing, reconciling, as well as implementing mental health and suicide prevention strategies
- A resolution on Indigenous Youth Suicide Prevention was passed as a priority at the 2016 Liberal Party Convention
- It was acknowledged that there have been multiple state of emergencies called in multiple Indigenous communities, regarding youth suicide
- For more information on the Acting on Indigenous Youth Suicide resolution
- Healing through culture - helping Indigenous people find themselves (identity) and pride in their culture through access through cultural activities
- Programs must reach out to Indigenous people of all ages
- They must reach out to those Indigenous people who are not part or connected to their communities - must deal with those who feel like “they are not Native enough”, those of mixed ancestry, those who were raised not knowing their culture
- Encouraging Indigenous (student) success allows them to increase their self confidence and confidence in their ability - encourage success in schools could improve overall mental health
- Having Indigenous counsellors available at schools-elementary, secondary, and postsecondary
- In the form of a counsellor and/or elders
Suicide by Age in Canada
- Centre for Suicide Prevention: Indigenous Suicide Prevention
- NATIONAL ABORIGINAL YOUTH SUICIDE PREVENTION STRATEGY
- Health Canada: Suicide Prevention