TORONTO, June 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Imagine if, within your community, 50 per
cent of people were affected by suicide. Those people could be anyone:
the man behind you in the line at the grocery store, your kid's
favourite librarian, your next door neighbour, the woman who delivers
your mail every morning.
For the residents of Neskantaga First Nation, this is not a hypothetical
scenario. Suicide is what led this small, remote community in
northwestern Ontario to declare a state of emergency earlier this
For decades, the rate of suicide among Aboriginal Canadians has been
several times higher than among the non-Aboriginal Canadian population
- and rising dramatically. One study showed that in many Northern
Ontario communities the rate had risen 400% in 10 years1.
What is it like to be a young person growing up in a community in
crisis? At Kids Help Phone, professional counsellors hear from such
young people regularly, including teens from remote communities like
Neskantaga, Attawapiskat, Pikangikum, Cat Lake or Eabametoong, who are
struggling with concerns like depression, poverty, and suicide.
Ten per cent of Kids Help Phone's clients self-identify as First
Nations, Aboriginal, and Métis; about twice their representation in
Canada's population. Like young people everywhere in Canada, in all
types of communities, these youth face social, academic, and emotional
pressures, anxieties, and uncertainties.
What we also hear from them, however, is that life is about as difficult
as it can get, compounded with the everyday struggles of growing up.
These kids are experiencing extraordinary challenges and feel helpless
to stop the pain they are experiencing. As a result, they feel
In 2010, Kids Help Phone led a project called Healthy Communities:
Building Capacities to Better Support Aboriginal Youth. Through this
initiative, Aboriginal youth told Kids Help Phone that when they need
mental health support services, they often find their options are
minimal, limited, and do not speak to the experiences of Aboriginal
youth. In small communities where so many people already know each
other, privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality are concerns that
prevent many young people from reaching out.
"Many youth informed us that in the remote communities, we may be the
only service that's realistically available for them," Todd Solomon,
Kids Help Phone's Clinical Director, English Language Services says.
"Understanding that context meant we had no choice but to adapt the way
we supported them."
There is no single organization, government, or solution required -
there are many. At Kids Help Phone, we recognize that young people are
the experts in their own lives, and any approach to start the healing
has to be community-driven and collaborative, with young people
themselves fully involved.
We should all be alarmed that the youth suicide rate in Canada is the
third highest in the industrialized world. Over 70 per cent of adults
report that their mental health problems began in childhood or early
adolescence2, yet mental health services remain fragmented and under-funded
throughout the country.
If we want our youth to live in strong, healthy communities, we need to
focus on long-term solutions to support and promote mental health and
Young people, and First Nations communities, can't do it alone. We all
have a collective responsibility to care for the young people of
Canada, and that includes all kids, everywhere.
You can help by encouraging the youth in your life to reach out, and to
seek help whether it is for themselves or their friends; even a little
bit of encouragement can engender hope in a young person. For some this
can mean the difference between life and death.
You can also help support our nation's Aboriginal youth, whether they
are thousands of kilometers away or just down the block. You can learn
about and raise awareness among the people you know about the issues
that young Aboriginal people face, as well as how First Nations peoples
and culture are an important and embedded part of our collective
identity as a nation.
By prioritizing the mental health and well-being of First Nations youth,
we can collectively ensure that future headlines are about the
resilience of their communities, rather than the tragedies.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Kids Help Phone at
1-800-668-6868 or visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.
About Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone is a Canadian and world leader, known for our expertise
in providing vital, innovative, and professional counselling services
to children and youth. Since 1989 we have offered children, teens and
young adults in Canada a critical lifeline of hope and support, through
our free, anonymous and confidential service. Our professional
counsellors support the mental health and well-being of young people
ages five to 20, in urban, rural, and remote communities, by providing
one-on-one counselling, information and resources online and by phone.
Our internationally recognized, award-winning websites are considered a
model of child-focused interactive design, and offer online counselling
forums and engaging, therapeutic games, tools and information to
encourage resilience and self-care. A community-based national charity,
Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on
community and corporate support to keep our essential service
available. We're there for the *6.5 million young people in Canada, 24
hours a day, 365 days a year, in English and in French.
*Source: represents the age group Kids Help Phone serves (from 5 to 20)
according to Statistics Canada, 2011.
For further information:
1 Acting On What We Know: Preventing Youth Suicide in First Nations
2 Government of Canada, The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental
Illness in Canada, 2006
SOURCE: Kids Help Phone
For further information:
For media inquiries, please contact:
Elizabeth-Alice Worth, Communications Coordinator, Kids Help
Phone 416-581-8955; 1-800-268-3062 ext. 8955