Suicide Prevention News and Comment is one of many Web sites that have looked into the high rate of suicide among young Native Americans. An independent blog, SPNAC is edited and published by suicide prevention advocate and suicide grief outreach worker Franklin Cook.
Last February -– almost at the same time of the SCIA hearing in Washington (see preceding blog item) -– Franklin wrote on SPNAC: “Canada’s situation is similar to that of many Native American communities in the United States. For instance, in South Dakota, the suicide rate for white males 15 to 19 years old is 23 deaths per 100,000 population while the rate for Native American males in the same age group in the state is 103 per 100,000. (Data are for the years 1999-2005. The source is the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System or WISQARS.)”
He also published a related column by accomplished film producer, director and freelance writer Doug Cuthand of Saskatchewan and the Little Pine First Nation. In his column, which had just been published in the Saskatchewan Leader-Post, Cuthand argued that today’s suicide epidemic is linked to colonialism, and he included excellent related context and views. Here are some excerpts:
“There is no worse indictment on the failure of government policy toward aboriginal peoples in Canada than our appalling rate of suicide. The tragic act of taking one’s life is a reflection of our young people’s lack of hope for the future and pain of the present.
“Suicide accounts for one quarter of the injury deaths for First Nations people between the ages of 15 and 25. According to Health Canada, suicide rates for First Nations youth are five to seven times higher than the national average.
“We have suicide rates that are among the highest in the world. The rate in Nunavut, for example, is double that of Lithuania, which has the world’s highest suicide rate among countries.
“Living conditions, lack of opportunity, unemployment, and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to the high rate of suicide among our youth.
“Our young people are living through a period of profound change. Our culture is changing rapidly. We are moving from a rural society to an urban one. We are bombarded by information from the world through television. Our young people feel they don’t have a place in this new world. (Emphasis mine.)
“Research has shown that communities where the culture is strong have a lower rate of suicide compared to reserves where the culture has been lost or seriously weakened. Also, when employment rates increase, the suicide rate declines. A strong culture combined with good leadership is a deterrent to youth suicide.”
What do you think? Please share thoughts -- and spread the word about this horrific situation that must be corrected.