Suicide Prevention: Current Problems

Fed. Govt.

June 1, 2017

Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities

Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities

Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Testimony from witnesses provided members with a deeper understanding of the ways in which the suicide and mental distress, along with the social determinants of health, such as housing, educational attainment, poverty and unemployment affect Indigenous peoples. Addressing the social determinants of health was identified by witnesses as critical to improving people’s day to day lives in communities. In addition, the Committee heard from Indigenous youth, that addressing the root causes of mental distress in Indigenous communities, including issues related to discrimination and access to health services through community-led solutions is critical. Importantly, the Committee heard that community involvement in service delivery, and increasing community control over local services (as known as cultural continuity) is a key factor in suicide prevention.

When First Nations communities assume greater control over their economic, health, social, policing and educational services and have retained the use of Indigenous languages and related cultural infrastructure, they experience lower rates of suicide, overall.

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples documented that rates of suicide among Indigenous peoples have dramatically increased. At the time of writing in 1995, the Commission estimated that:

  • The national rate of suicide among Indigenous peoples was three times higher than the general public, or non-Indigenous Canadians, and
  • That the rate of suicide among Indigenous youth was five to six times higher than non-Indigenous youth.

Sadly, research indicates that these figures remain unchanged over the past three decades.

Breaking Point presents 27 recommendations under three broad categores:

  • Self-Determination and Reconciliation (3)
  • Social Determinants of Health (12)
  • Mental Health Services (12)

The following link has the federal government responses to all 27 Breaking Point recommendations:

September 17, 2019

Suicide Prevention Plans

National Paper on Youth Suicide

The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) published “A National Paper on Youth Suicide” that calls on governments at the national, provincial and territorial levels to take concrete action to prevent youth suicide in Canada. Failure to address the multi-faceted issues impacting indigenous communities has led to a suicide epidemic.

The paper consolidates research by the CCCYA members that led to the identification of three broad findings related to youth suicide:

  • the impact of traumatic childhood experiences,
  • the importance of service integration and
  • continuity and how the voices of children and youth needs to be at the front of change.
    National Paper on Youth Suicide: Calls to Action

Calls to Action

  1. The Government of Canada develop and implement a fully resourced National Suicide Strategy with designated funding to the provinces and territories to create their own, or to support existing strategies where applicable. Whether at the federal, provincial or territorial level, young people must be included in all stages of development and implementation.
  2. The Government of Canada develop and implement a cross-jurisdictional, standardized, data system and to compel provinces in the mandatory reporting of attempted and completed suicide.
  3. The Government of Canada shall engage in meaningful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities experiencing elevated rates of suicidal behaviour of young people and develop interventions to eliminate these health disparities. This work should draw on the leadership and expertise of Indigenous youth and Elders whenever possible.

October 29, 2019

States of Emergency

Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation

CBC: Failure to approve funding requests over 20 years ago to build infrastructure and capacity in mental health counselling, social work, education etc. in a community whose average age is now 21, less that 50% of the average age of the broader population of 46.

Chief Eugene Hart declared a suicide crisis in the Labrador Innu community of Sheshatshiu after 10 people between ages 12 and 18 attempted suicide. Those attempts came on the heels of a 20-year-old woman’s drowning death the previous weekend, as well as the loss of 14 community members to natural causes over the last year.

July 14, 2021

States of Emergency

Tataskweyak Cree Nation

“Global News – Manitoba’s Tataskweyak Cree Nation declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, after nine young people were lost to suicide in the last 14 months alone. They asked federal and provincial authorities for urgent help and “immediate” supports for mental wellness and long-term solutions for its community. The community, which is connected by road to Thompson, has approximately 2,600 people living on reserve, with another 1,300 living off reserve.

The First Nation said that they have reached out for mobile crisis teams from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and the Keewatin Tribal Council, as well as requested help from Health Canada, Indigenous Services, the RCMP and the province of Manitoba. The community is asking for around-the-clock mental health counselling, a crisis drop-in centre and a commitment to protect young and vulnerable people from illicit drugs and bootlegging. Spence said that there have been several other factors behind the community’s crisis aside from drugs and alcohol.

The disruptions from a year of isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the recent discoveries of unmarked burial sites at former residential schools across Canada have had a major impact on the community’s mental health, Tataskweyak Chief Doreen Spence and other community leaders said.

June 30, 2021

States of Emergency

The Matawa Education and Care Centre

The Matawa Education and Care Centre (MECC), – formerly, the ‘Matawa Learning Centre,’ yesterday released their report entitled ‘Matawa Education and Care Centre 5th Annual Report on the Seven Youth Inquest – Academic 2020-2021.’ For the first time—it included an alert regarding MECC’s potential inability to meet inquest recommendations 64, 71, 81, 83, 84, 85, 114 as a result of the lack of federal government commitment to funding the Jordan’s Principle and Choose Life programs past March 2022. The continuation of these programs has been advocated over the past number of months and more recently, in a joint Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) letter to Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller on June 10, 2021.

Impact on First Nations Youth On Reserve: The Government of Canada’s Jordan’s Principle Program and Choose Life Program also fund successful suicide prevention programs and services within each of the following Matawa First Nations in which our students call home:

  • Aroland First Nation
  • Constance Lake First Nation
  • Eabametoong First Nation
  • Ginoogaming First Nation
  • Long Lake 58 First Nation
  • Marten Falls First Nation
  • Neskantaga First Nation
  • Nibinamik First Nation
  • Webequie First Nation

Without this commitment, MECCC will lose the following programs and services for its students:

  • Mental Health Staff and Services;
  • Special Education Staff and Services;
  • Outdoor Education Staff and Services;
  • Elders Program;
  • Cultural Program;
  • Staff Professional Development;
  • Student Education and Training;
  • a partnership with St. Joseph’s Care Group which includes in-school access to a:
  • Clinical Supervisor;
  • Mental Health and Addiction Counsellors;
  • Child and Youth Workers;
  • Nurse Practitioner;
  • Psychologist;
  • Family Therapist and
  • a Psychiatrist.

“It is incumbent upon Canada to provide funding via a stable and predictable mechanism that allows for long term strategic planning and discretionary decision making as stated in Inquest Recommendation #12,” said MECC Principal, Brad Battiston. “Stable reliable funding moving forward will provide adequate academic and mental wellness programming for our students.