Aboriginal youth suicide rises in Northern Ontario

Increasing numbers of Aboriginal youth in Northern Ontario are kill-ing themselves, and 42% of the suicides over the last 10 years have occurred in just seven communities, says  an  anthropologist  who  has reviewed statistics from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario.

In 2013, there were 31 suicides by Aboriginal people in Ontario, up from 11 in 1991, said Gerald McKinley, a postdoctoral fellow at Toronto’s Cen-tre for Addiction and Mental Health. Overall, from 1991 to 2013, there were 468 suicides by Aboriginal people in Ontario, almost half by people 25 or younger, he added.

McKinley has been able to analyze the figures only because the coroner’s office breaks out those suicides in Ontario, unlike in most other prov-inces. Although Health Canada cites the Aboriginal youth suicide rate as up to seven times higher than that for non-Aboriginal youth, there are no Aboriginal-specific rates per 100 000 for each province.

Those figures would help in creat-ing a national suicide prevention strat-egy with a targeted indigenous compo-nent, which suicide prevention experts say is critical for bringing rates down in Canada.

McKinley points to historical trauma as part of the reason behind the escalating numbers. “We talk about things like historical trauma as if it’s events that have happened in the past,” McKinley told CMAJ in an interview. “But the number of suicide comple-tions [is] increasing steadily, decade over decade over decade. What’s hap-pening [now] is new communities are joining in.”

The effects of historical intergenera-tional trauma was the topic of a panel at the International Association for Sui-cide Prevention’s annual conference in Montréal on June 18 and a major focus of the recent recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Both the commission and been no suicides in Marten Falls, which shares the same difficult social condi-tions as neighbouring communities where people have taken their lives.

Most First Nations in Northern Ontario have few or no suicides, McKinley says. The critical factor for suicide prevention among youth is to understand why it is spreading to communities that have rarely experienced it.

Read More: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2015/06/29/cmaj.109-5108.full.pdf

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