October 13, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), in collaboration with Statistics Canada, published the report entitled “Past-year suicidal thoughts among off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit adults aged 18 to 25: Prevalence and associated characteristics” based on data generated from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey. The results of this report do not come as a surprise, as the loss of loved ones through suicide has been a reality for many Indigenous communities spanning many generations.
The prevalence of lifetime suicidal thoughts among Aboriginal young adults was almost double (27%) that of their non-Aboriginal counterparts (15%). Aboriginal young women in particular showed a trend towards higher prevalence of lifetime suicidal thoughts, and were more likely than men to report mood and/or anxiety disorders and a bullying environment in school.
In 2012, 5-10% of off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit young adults reported suicidal thoughts in the previous twelve months. Among the three Aboriginal groups studied, young adults who reported having mood and/or anxiety disorders, ever using drugs, or hopelessness were more likely to have had past-year suicidal thoughts.
Conversely, high self-worth was associated with reduced likelihood of suicidal thoughts among off-reserve First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth. Strong extended family ties and post-secondary school attendance were only associated in the case of off-reserve First Nations young adults. These association could advance the discussion of the development and evaluation of gender and community specific suicide prevention programs.
Research by Chandler and Lalonde (2008) found that certain factors have shown to protect against suicide. They include community and individual empowerment, control over personal lives, connection to culture, participation of women in local band councils, and the control of child and family services within the community.
NWAC applauds the Liberal government’s recent commitment of $70 million in new funding over the next three years to address the health and suicide crisis involving Indigenous peoples living on-reserve and in the territories. However, long-term solutions, improved resources and culturally-aware mental health services, both on and off-reserve, are urgently needed to effectively address this crisis and the underlying systemic issues contributing to the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts in Indigenous youth throughout Canada.
“The suicide epidemic in our Indigenous communities requires immediate action. It is only through the sharing of knowledge and translating research into viable prevention programs that the staggering rates of suicidal thoughts among Indigenous youth can be reduced. Interventions need to be adapted to the needs of specific communities.”
– Francyne Joe, President, Native Women’s Association of Canada
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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