If you ever need to reach out, there are always resources.
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Six Nations Youth Crisis Line: 1-866-445-2204
Haldimand/Norfolk REACH Crisis Line: 1-866-327-3224
Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266
Mental Health Crisis Line St Leonards: 519-759-7188
Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth.
Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
I am not one to normally state statistics. I believe that we shouldn’t diminish people, entire lives, to a number. Many communities face the issue of suicide, and even one is one too many. However, sometimes, it is necessary to show the scale of the disproportionate amount of indigenous people who take their lives in our country each year. The events I’ve witnessed and experienced in the last few years, have been what has inspired me to raise my voice, and make a difference. When I chose my platform, I wanted to be able to speak about it with a true passion. I felt that if I didn’t choose a cause that was close to my heart, it would seem ingenuine. I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts for a long time, and I attempted suicide in April of 2017. This is something I always try and be open about because I don’t believe there is shame in being honest. In asking for help. I also believe that the more we talk about these problems, the more others will be comfortable in coming forward with their own struggles. Many people say they feel alone, and I understand that feeling completely. In my times when I’m feeling at my lowest, knowing there are people who understand what I am going through is an undeniable comfort. My goal is not only to be a voice and an advocate but also help individuals, those who are on the front lines.
Suicide among indigenous people is a unique issue. Many reservations and communities are fairly small, and even on large ones such as my own, it can still feel as if everyone knows everyone. The ripples of a suicide in these communities are felt by all, and the youth are normally the ones taking the ripples turned riptides head on. Frequently being exposed to suicide can sometimes also account for suicide clusters, and lead to the normalization of these behaviors, which is extremely dangerous for impressionable youth. By showing examples of more people seeking help, instead of glorifying the actions of those who are lost by suicide, we can help one another. Honouring their lives, and vowing to ensure that no one else feels so helpless that they feel the only option is to take their own life. Many of the issues faced by those on reservations can be traced back to the lasting effects of colonization, including residential schools experiences, forced assimilation, modern day racism, forced adoptions and foster care, forced relocation, and denial of existence as people. Intergenerational trauma is a term meaning the inheritance of historical oppression and its negative consequences to future generations. You can see this in communities affected by residential schools.
Youth are so valuable to our communities and to our world as a whole. Youth are capable of moving mountains and making change, and a prime example of this is the March for Our Lives held this past year. Led by youth, they created real change and started a movement for something supported by many people, youth, and adults alike. Many Indigenous cultures emphasize the importance of the coming generations. We are to think about the 7 generations after us when considering how our actions will determine the future. This includes emotional, environmental, and community decisions. There are a number of communities suffering and living in third world conditions in our own country. So many reserves do not have adequate living conditions, let alone mental health services. Canada does not have statistics to begin to approach this epidemic, and we are the only G7 country without a national suicide prevention action plan. While I think we are very lucky to live in such a diverse, wealthy country, there are still places we are lacking, particularly with our treatment of the first peoples of this country.
The first step to creating change is bringing awareness. With “And She Split The Sky In Two”, the one-act play I wrote for the NTS Drama Festival, I hoped to start a conversation. Many people are still extremely unaware, many people refuse to believe there is a problem, and there are those who simply don’t want to listen. There are always hard conversations we need to have, and as allies, it is their job to have these conversations. I have spent years having these difficult conversations with those who would rather stay ignorant, and I understand how draining they can be. Fortunately, with our show, we have had so much incredible feedback, and stories from those who are beginning to understand. While this is a start, it is important that people take it upon themselves to educate, and not always expect those in these situations to do the educating. While there are always people willing to teach, there are just as many who don’t feel as if they should have to, and it is completely understandable. Suicide and trauma is a sensitive topic, and thinking about it constantly is emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.
As a suicide attempt survivor, I deeply understand the mental health issues today’s youth are facing first hand, as well as those on reserve. I want to be a role model for other youth who are struggling, and show them that things always have the potential to get better. Mental health should not be shamed, and every person should have the opportunity to seek help. My goal is to start a conversation, the real work starts after that, and that includes every single one of us.
Til Next Time