Assembly of First Nations National Chief Expresses Need to Support Indigenous Youth on World Suicide Prevention Day

OTTAWA, Sept. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - On World Suicide Prevention Day, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Ghislain Picard reminds First Nations and all Canadians of the importance of empowering and supporting Indigenous peoples across the globe to make all efforts toward healthy living, which includes community-based suicide prevention.

"First Nations endure suicide rates that are five to seven times higher than the national average and it is clear our young people need every support required for prevention," said AFN National Chief Ghislain Picard. "Too many of our communities are affected by suicide.  We must take action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our youth and families."

As recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) promotes global commitment and action to prevent suicide, raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. This year, the theme of WSPD is 'Suicide Prevention: One World Connected'.

"This year's World Suicide Prevention Day theme underscores that connections are one of the key pillars of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, and is the foundation for First Nation driven efforts toward mental wellness," said National Chief Picard.  "The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework underlines that mental wellness is enriched as individuals have a sense of connectedness and belonging within their families, to community, and to culture, as well as purpose in their daily lives, hope for the future and a sense of meaning in life.  This is why First Nations place such a priority on promoting and enhancing culture, language and identity. It literally saves lives."

In partnership with Health Canada and Indigenous mental wellness leaders, the AFN has been working to describe a coordinated continuum of mental wellness services that are comprehensive and inclusive of First Nations. The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework presents a shared vision for the future of First Nations mental wellness programs and services, including those aimed at suicide prevention and intervention, and practical steps towards achieving that vision.

The AFN National Youth Council also noted that chances of success for suicide prevention are greater when First Nations help mobilise and engage youth within their communities.

"Bringing the young people together is essential to overcome the impacts of suicide as well as to prevent it among our peers," said AFN National Youth Council representative Suzie O'Bomsawin who leads youth efforts in the area of mental health.  "Through Youth Summits and other less formal gatherings, we provide a forum for young people to share experiences in a supportive and positive environment where strengths are celebrated and challenges are addressed with plans for action."

If you are thinking of suicide or think someone else may be, there is help.  Call your local crisis line or mobile crisis team, the police, or go to the emergency room of your local hospital. For children and youth aged 5 to 20, call Kid's Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a professional counsellor.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or jyoung@afn.ca

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca


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