October 20, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada calls for immediate action on the worsening youth suicide crisis within Indigenous communities, after the tragic loss of four young girls within a week. The northern Saskatchewan Indigenous communities of Stanley Mission, La Ronge, and Deschambault Lake are mourning the loss of the four young girls, aged 10 to 14, after they took their own lives.
This month’s suicides, along with the recent crisis in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat, illustrate just how little we understand about what young Indigenous girls and boys are going through and how inadequate our response is.
“We lose our Indigenous girls in many ways. In one week we have lost four girls between the ages of 10 to 14 to suicide. They could not find the hope to keep going. We collectively failed them because we did not show them that they are valued and that we will address the systemic violence that does not recognize their beauty and worth. We collectively let them be told that they are not worthy of a school system, health care system, child welfare supports, home care system equal to other children just down the road from them that are not living on reserve. We told them that they are lesser than other children so they can live in housing that is substandard and with water that is not drinkable. This is not the families’ loss, or the communities’ loss. This tragedy is our collective loss. We have lost our children.”
– Francyne Joe, President
The reaction to this crisis is not to provide mental health supports for the crisis and then everything stays the same. While communities need funds for culturally-aware mental health counselling, supports and programs for at-risk youth, we also need a comprehensive systemic response to communities losing their children. Cindy Blackstock’s work through the First Nation and Family Caring Society has consistently identified issues that needs to change for our Indigenous children and youth.
The results of assimilatory government policies such as residential schools and the Sixties Scoop, as well as a steady diet of racism, misogyny and sexualization of Indigenous women and girls, have led to the higher rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health issues within Indigenous communities, particularly among Indigenous women and girls. This leads to suicide and self-inflicted injuries becoming one of the most common causes of death for Aboriginal youth and adults (up to 44 years of age), according to Health Canada (2012).
Indigenous youth seeking culturally-aware mental health counselling and crisis intervention should call the 24/7 toll-free hotline – 1-855-242-3310. Services are available in English and French, as well as Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies. As a national organization representing Aboriginal women since 1974, NWAC’s mandate is to achieve equality for all Aboriginal women in Canada.
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