The average rate of suicide in Canada among Aboriginal youth is about five to six times higher than non-Aboriginal youth. Chief Peter Moonias from the Neskantaga First Nation spoke recently about the alarmingly high rate of suicide in his small community of 420 residents, of which 60 percent are youth. Since the spring of 2012, 27 youth attempted and 10 youth committed suicide. Factors that may have contributed to the youths’ poor mental health include high rates of unemployment, unsafe drinking water, food insecurity, lack of housing, mould and lack of adequate health services.
Chief Moonias said that the lack of clean water results in high rates of disease, including skin rashes and sores. When people cannot meet their most basic survival needs, their physical and mental health deteriorates. Read the CBC story for more information and pictures from the presentation, “Fourth World Living Conditions in the Ring of Fire: Call to Action”.
CMHA is helping to address youth suicide. In March 2014, CMHA Ontario, together with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, held five regional youth suicide prevention forums across the province. The all-day forums, called Together We Mobilize, were part of the Government of Ontario’s three-year Youth Suicide Prevention Plan to strengthen community initiatives that support young people in crisis.
The forums drew 337 participants from across the province, including health professionals with diverse expertise, individuals with lived experience and service providers supporting Aboriginal communities. The Toronto forum included a discussion of the challenges facing Aboriginal populations, including the shortage of trained mental health workers supporting that population. The participants shared knowledge and resources on youth suicide prevention, risk management and postvention in order to build upon previous work and address the gaps in service provision.