Suicide on reserves

December 6th, 2013, 11am

It was -24°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

Please check out the link below to read a very interesting article is on a reserve in Manitoba… Canada, home to the suicide capital of the world

In Pikangikum, gas sniffing is rampant and young people are taking their own lives at a shocking rate.

Now that you have read about what a issue this truly is it is time to look at what some of the causes may be. Loss of culture, language, traditional values and the disintegration of traditional family structure all can be attributed to the long term effects from the residential school experience. This trauma has left communities full of shame and persecution and has been buried deep and passed down through the generations.

Psychologist Bruce Alexander poses a theory of dislocation (not necessarily geographical). People in this state of dislocation are more prone to despair and addictions.

“High rates of depression and mental illness, feelings of hopelessness, high incidence of substance abuse, sexual abuse and violence, are just a few of the behavioral predictors that result from oppression. Ultimately, the manifestations of such a dispiriting environment may also result in suicide (Alexander, 2008; Elias, 2012).”

The rates of suicide among the Aboriginal population are extremely high. The youth are failing to acquire the Aboriginal values and identity from their ancestors. Among some youth, suicide can be looked at as a normal response to such a hopeless existence. These incidences of suicide can start a snowball effect.

So what can be done?

Traditional western approaches to physical and mental health often leave out the spiritual component which is very important to Aboriginal people. Holistic Native healers are a very important part of the community to try to health the members. In community or school programs which are run in the community to help prevent suicide should have a spiritual emphasis.

Community programs with help with cultural and spiritual growth may include; dances, ceremonies, healing practices, pow wows, sweat lodges and drumming circles. These can be used to addictions as well as suicide prevention as it help guide the members towards healing.

Programs for the youth which support cultural traditions has proven to be a powerful tool to restoring meaning and purpose to the communities. Leadership Resiliency Program is a school and community-based program for high school students and River of Life is an online suicide prevention program that has been developed by Aboriginal leaders. These are just two examples of programs trying to help lower the high rates of suicide.

David Wade and Barb said thanks.

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Kelly Barr

I have been married for 15 years and am the mother of 2 small children. I grew up in BC but now live in Northern Manitoba to fight the winters and the mosquitoes!

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