Get the Facts
Suicide is a very serious issue that affects youth in all walks of life. Suicidal thoughts and actions can be attributed to such things like mental illness, low self-esteem, limited opportunity, and poor living conditions.
Some factors that have contributed to an increase suicide among First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth are things like unemployment, poverty, lack of adequate housing, and a shortage of health-care professionals working in remote Aboriginal communities. These things impact how we feel about ourselves and our future.
For those thinking of suicide, the following thoughts may be racing through their heads:
• “I can’t stop the pain.”
• “Nothing makes sense anymore.”
• “I can’t see any way out of this situation.”
• “I’m so sad all the time.”
• “Everything hurts.”
• “I am useless.”
• “No one cares about me.”
• “My life is out of control.”
There is not one ‘type’ of suicidal person. These thoughts and feelings can affect anyone. It happens to the young and old, rich and poor. For this reason, it can be tough to tell who is at risk of committing suicide; however, they may show some warning signs.
Someone might be suicidal if he or she:
• Talks about committing suicide.
• Has trouble eating or sleeping.
• Suddenly changes his/her behaviour (withdrawal, lack of interest in things).
• Self-mutilates (bites, cuts, scratches, burns themselves).
• Loses interest in hobbies, work or school.
• Gives away possessions.
• Has previously attempted suicide.
• Takes unnecessary risks that may increase their odds of injury or death.
• Has experienced a recent loss, like the death of a family member or friend.
• Loses interest in their personal appearance.
• Increases their use of alcohol, drugs or inhalants.
• Show signs of depression (crying, hopelessness).
What should I do?
Talk to someone you trust. Although things may seem very bad for you at times, the crisis can and will pass.
Ask for help. You can be helped and you deserve it. Try talking to a relative, friend, Elder, or counsellor in your community. Sometimes a solution can be found just by talking about your problems and feelings. If there’s nobody close to you that you feel you can trust, try talking to someone from the community resource list below. The Kids Help Phone (1-800-866-8686) is a free, anonymous, 24-hour help line and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Facebook and other online forums can also be a good place to express yourself. You can also join the Honouring Life Network Facebook group to seek out support and resources.
Do not blame yourself. If you think the way you feel is all your fault, you are wrong. If the conditions in your community are poor, your problems will seem much worse. Lower suicide rates have been linked to communities that have achieved self-governance and control over education, health, police, and other local services. Remember that your community appreciates the unique qualities you have to offer (and yes, you DO have unique qualities to contribute).
Seek Traditional Healing and Knowledge. Low suicide rates in Aboriginal communities have also been linked to strong traditions, customs, ceremonies, and traditional healing methods that provide you with a sense of security, belonging and identity. Some Elders say we have lost balance, control and harmony in our lives. Try reconnecting with your culture— it may be the first step to feeling good about yourself. Having a strong sense of culture will give you a strong sense of who you are, and what your valuable role is in the community.
Get support from others who have experienced similar feelings. Try reading some of the stories that youth have contributed to the Honouring Life Network. These stories show how others have gotten through tough times. It may be hard to do anything right now, but it is important to realize that you are not alone and that other people want to help you.
The bottom line is there is no shame in asking for help. Suicidal thoughts can be scary and extremely upsetting for youth. Dealing with these thoughts is not easy, but there are people who want to help you.
For a friend:
Take them seriously. No matter who the person is telling you about their suicidal thoughts, pay attention to them. Suicide and suicidal thoughts are not a joke, and should not be taken lightly.
Listen. Allow them to express their feelings. Accept these feelings and keep an open mind. Ask questions about their feelings.
Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life. Don’t argue with the person.
Show your concern. Tell them how much you care and that you want to help them.
Don’t act surprised. If someone tells you about their intentions, don’t act surprised. This will put distance between the two of you.
Don’t dare him or her to do it.
Make him or her aware of the alternatives. Be sincere; do not offer unrealistic and far-fetched alternatives. Don’t offer them clichés or things they have heard a million times like, “it’s all in your head” or, “you’ll grow out of it”.
Take action. Remove means of committing suicide, such as guns or pills. Stay with that person until you know they are out of danger.
Get help. Contact a parent, Elder, school counsellor, teacher, psychologist, doctor, et cetera. Do not swear to secrecy because you may not have the ability to provide the person with the help that they deserve.
• Suicide and self-injury are the leading causes of death for First Nations people between the ages of 10-44 .
• For First Nations males 15 to 24 years old, the suicide rate is 126 per 100 000 compared to 24 per 100, 000 for the same age group among the general population.
• For First Nations women between 15 to 24 years old, the suicide rate is 25 per 100 000 compared to only 5 per 100 000 for non-Aboriginal women.
• Inuit suicide rates are 11 times the national average, and 83 per cent of these people are under the age of 30 (ibid).
• There are currently no Métis-specific statistics on youth suicide.
• Statistics show that 60 per cent of all Aboriginal people who attempt and succeed in committing suicide are acutely intoxicated (drunk) at the time, compared to 24 per cent of all non-Aboriginal cases (ibid).
• Youth suicide has tripled in Canada over the past 40 years .
• Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15 to 24 year-old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people each year die by suicide in Canada (ibid).
• Not all Aboriginal communities experience youth suicide. British Columbia researchers report that 90 per cent of the suicides take place in just 10 per cent of B.C. communities .
The Canadian Mental Health Association: www.cmha.ca
Suicide Information and Education Collection: www.suicideinfo.ca
Reviewed and adapted by the National Aboriginal Health Organization with permission from the Aboriginal Youth Network. NAHO is grateful for the contribution of this resource from the Nechi Training, Research and Health Promotions Institute. Information from this fact sheet is not to be used for diagnosis, treatment or referral services and NAHO does not provide those services through the Internet. Individuals should contact their personal physician, nurse and/or their local mental health agency for further information.
Last Reviewed: 7 July 2009