Eradicating Suicide: Canadian Aboriginal Youth Essay

Length: 10 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Psychology Type: Essay Paper: #28505221 Related Topics: Colonization, Suicide, Air Canada, Canadian Culture
Excerpt from Essay :


Suicide amongst Canada's Aboriginal People

Suicide amongst Canada's Aboriginal People

The aboriginal people of Canada have faced injustices perpetrated through colonization, cultural prejudice, and forced assimilation among many other social injustices. The perpetrators, who include the Canadian dominant population, did this without considering the aboriginal people's well-being. Therefore, in an attempt to reduce the social problems they faced, the aboriginal people taken part in habits such as alcoholism, violence, and suicide. The aboriginal youth remain the most affected, mainly because of the development of suicidal thoughts, which have driven them to commit suicide (Kirmayer, & Valaskakis, 2009). To make it worse, the aboriginal people are denied access to healthcare services, which has contributed to lack of identification of suicidal youths.

The social problems they face result to depression, and some of the people opt to take part in some life-threatening habits, for example, suicide (Lavelle & Poole, 2010). Suicide is the most common habit among the aboriginal people of Canada, and in the recent past, aboriginals of Canada have experienced higher rates of suicide than the general population. This has seen to increased attention on the social problem, and many investigators are studying some of the predisposing factors. On the other hand, there are huge differences across the communities of the aboriginal people of Canada, but the overall suicide rate among the First Nation People is almost twice that of the total general population.

Statistics show that the Inuit aboriginal people have high rates of 6-11 when compared to the general Canadian population. However, the youth are the most affected, and studies show that those aged 10-29 are 5-6 times more likely to commit suicide when compared to their general population counterparts. Studies further suggest that a third of the youth from the aboriginal people are prone to suicide. The males' aboriginal people are more affected than the females, but the females attempt suicide more often than the males. Although the statistics exist, there is still little information concerning aboriginal suicide, its causes and working interventions (LeMaster et. al., 2004).

Context of Social Work

Social work's main objective is helping people in times of social problems, some of which may call for national intervention, or even international intervention. The challenges people in a given society going through vary, and may include healthcare issues, or psychological issues. In this context, social work is relevant in the issue of suicide primarily because suicide is a habitual problem resulting from a variety of issues, such as mental problems (Turner, 2005). In Canada, aboriginal social work has grown in an effort to develop culturally based interventions to solve the high rates of suicide by evaluating the predisposing factors that induce suicidal thoughts, such as drug abuse, alcoholism and depression (Turner, 2005).

Social workers have the needed skills, which help them to integrate with the aboriginal people easily in an effort to identify the factors that result to suicidal thoughts. It is in the social work profession where people learn the cultures of different people, mainly the cultures of indigenous communities because of their vulnerability to social problems, which makes social workers ideal in tackling the suicide problem of the aboriginal people of Canada. On the other hand, the aboriginal people of Canada are among the high-risk individuals in the world, and it is only social workers who have the skills to approach such people.

As stated earlier, social work's objective is to show concern to needy people, regardless of their race, ethnic background, or social status. This is why social work studies have commented on the problem of suicide among the aboriginals in Canada. Suicide is a social problem, which makes social work profession relevant in providing working interventions, either through counseling, education or culturally-based strategies (Baskin, 2011). Overall, from the social perspective suicide is a product of the social processes, which include depression, and alcoholism.

Background of Aboriginals and Suicide

In the context of aboriginal people of Canada, suicide is a factor, which makes known the severe social problems they face. Nonetheless, suicide is a behavior, and not a psychiatric problem as postulated by some scholars. Similar to other behaviors, suicide is a consequence of


The aboriginals of Canada have struggled for a long time to maintain their language, culture, tradition, and rights during the colonization period. In the process of protecting their heritage, they efforts were met by brutality throughout the colonization period by Europeans and Canadians.

The indigenous people faced oppression, prejudice among many other social injustices inflicted by the dominating societies. Repeated efforts of trying to strip off the people their culture, resulted to devastating effects on the aboriginal people. This led them turn to alcoholism, depression and suicide as a way to minimize their problems. In this regard, depression has shown that it played a role in the many suicides seen in the aboriginal people (Turner, 2005). In addition, alcoholism, which also stimulates or induces behavior, played a role in the high rates of suicide among the aboriginal people, particularly on the youth.

Reports and studies have stated that the rates of suicide among the aboriginal people are higher in the youth than the elderly. In addition, the highest suicide rates are those of the male child, while the female show higher rates of attempted suicide. Although this data exists, the aboriginals have faced isolation and discrimination, which has seen them not included in the mental health system. Isolation from the mental health system has contributed to suicide because aboriginals are not given a chance to identify those with mental issues to undergo treatment (Lavelle, & Poole, 2010).

The View of Aboriginals

The aboriginals of Canada have faced historical injustices committed to them, which have played a contributory role to the high rates of suicide. Therefore, any intervention provided by the social workers should be central to redoing the injustices inflicted on them. One of the essential strategies is to include aboriginal people in the community-based services. This is a decolonization strategy, which will give them a chance to air their views on the problem of suicide. In addition, it is vital to appreciate the people by keeping their culture strong, allow them to live on their ancestral lands, engage them in community empowerment, and allow them to practice their traditional laws will be working decolonization strategies (Thira, 2014).

Then again, allowing the aboriginal people to maintain their culture is essential and can work in reducing suicidal rates (Blackstock, 2009). In addition, giving them a chance to take part in policymaking, or other issues concerning their welfare can give them a sense of belonging. This is because the aboriginal people are in a position to tell what they feel is good for them, and this is an important decolonization strategy. In comparison to the past, where the aboriginal people did not have such a chance, this can instill positive attitudes concerning the efforts of the social workers in solving some of the problems (Hart, Sinclair, & Bruyere, 2009).


Although there are efforts to treat mentally ill aboriginals, there are many challenges as well. Some social workers understand some important aspects of aboriginal health (Lavelle, & Poole, 2010). Even so, there are potential conflicts and contradictions because the aboriginal use local ways of treatment and modern ways can face resistance. In addition, the lack of proficient mental health staff from the aboriginal people, contributes to the lack of cultural and linguistic knowledge in the treatment of the mentally ill.

In the context of language, few health professionals have undertaken some training on the language of the aboriginals, but there is a problem when it comes to interpreting their mental health. In addition, the aboriginal leaders focus on or show interest in economic growth and self-government, and disregard social problems, such a suicide. Some of the leaders have even told their people not to engage in issues of suicide, suggesting that it is a shameful act. This lack of information generates a barrier in the sense that social workers fail to get relevant information to provide working interventions.

The lack of inclusion of the aboriginal people in the proposing of interventions has also contributed to barriers. This is because the aboriginals fail to know the intentions of the social workers, particularly because they lack representation (Thira, 2014). The aboriginals have their own view of suicide, which they feel that suicide has a close relation to a form of sickness of the spirit, and this creates another barrier, where social workers will need to change the people's understanding, which is not achievable.

Decolonizing Approaches to Deal with Suicide

Formerly, the paper has highlighted some of the risk factors that contribute to suicide among the aboriginal people. Therefore, using the risk factors it will be possible to develop an effective suicide prevention approach. Some of the risk factors include alcohol use, social isolation, male gender, violence victimization and perpetration (May et al., 2002). Social workers can train the aboriginal leaders about suicide and violence,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Baskin, C. (2011). Strong Helpers' Teachings: The Value of Indigenous Knowledge in the Helping Professions. Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholar's Press.

Blackstock, C. (2009). The Occasional Evil of Angels: Learning from the Experiences of Aboriginal Peoples and Social Work. First Peoples Child and Family Review, 4(1), 28-37.

Hart, M., Sinclair, R., & Bruyere, G. (2009). Wi-cihitowin: Aboriginal social work in Canada.

Halifax: Fernwood Pub.

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