Seven suicides in 18 months has led to a call for more support for First Nations youth contemplating suicide.
Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff released a report Monday morning, recommending that more funding and more support be made available for those working with youth.
The report tells the stories of seven young people that took their lives between June of 2013 and December of 2014. The teens, given pseudonyms to protect their identity, range in age from 14 to 18.
Graff says it’s a problem that can’t be ignored.
“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death. The suicide rate among First Nations male youth is five times higher, and among First Nations female youth is seven times higher compared to those of their non-aboriginal peers. The deaths of these seven youth puts a face on these tragic statistics.”
Graff notes that all seven children experienced major risk factors for suicide, like childhood trauma, exposure to domestic violence, and parental addictions.
“We must work harder to support Aboriginal young people at risk for suicide. I sincerely hope this report moves Governments and community leaders to make the issue of Aboriginal youth suicide a greater priority, and to devote the resources and support to address it effectively.”
Elder Francis Whiskeyjack with the Edmonton Public School Board spoke at the release of the report. He says early in his own life he contemplated suicide.
“But because I had a support system from a mentor that helped me identify with my own culture by the way of ceremony that I was able to survive.”
The report lists twelve recommendations for the province to help reduce what Graff calls the “terrible trend of aboriginal youth suicide.” (kdr)