The Chief Coroner of Ontario has identified a rising number of First Nations teenage suicides for youth living on reserves. This is based on a review of the northern Ontario First Nations community of Pikangikum, where 16 young people between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide during 2006 to 2008.
The review examined the circumstances of each youth’s death, analyzed and collected information in order to prevent further suicides, and made recommendations to avoid death in similar circumstances. Suicide is related to a number of complex factors that exist on First Nations reserves.
Reviewers found that suicides occur mainly in clusters, all deaths were due to hanging, many young people had a history of mental health problems, almost all were solvent abusers, and domestic violence was common in their families.
The review also found that there is a lack of continuity in health care in the community, 75 per cent of homes do not have indoor plumbing or running water, and in 2008 there were only 170 jobs in the community. In addition, there is a serious issue with substance abuse in Pikangikum and a rippling effect of multiple suicides after an initial suicide.
“When the first suicide occurs it has a contagion effect within the community,” states Dr. Bert Lauwers, the Deputy Chief Coroner for Investigations in Ontario. He also notes that, “…when you have a series of suicides within a short period, there is never time to properly deal with the grieving so it becomes compounded.”
For more information on the review of First Nations suicides in Pikangikum between 2006 and 2008, see www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca.
For CTV coverage of the topic, see www.ctv.ca.