Suicide Among Aboriginal People in Canada


Abstract from the report, Page 1-2:

"In recent years, Aboriginal people in Canada have suffered from much higher rates of suicide than the general population. While the overall Canadian rate has declined, in some Aboriginal communities and populations, rates have continued to rise for the last two decades (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1995). Although there are enormous variations across communities, bands, and nations, the overall suicide rate among First Nation communities is about twice that of the total Canadian population; the rate among Inuit is still higher—6 to 11 times higher than the general population (Government of Canada). For Aboriginal people, suicide is an affliction of the young. From the ages of 10 to 19, Aboriginal youth on reserves are 5 to 6 times more likely to die of suicide than their peers in the general population (Medical Services Branch Steering Committee on Native Mental Health, 1991a). Over a third of all deaths among Aboriginal youth are attributable to suicide (Health Canada, 2003). Despite widespread concern about these alarming statistics, there continues to be a lack of information on Aboriginal suicide, its origins, and effective interventions (Advisory Group on Suicide Prevention, 2003).

The aim in this report is to review and integrate the available research literature in order to better understand the origins of suicide and identify effective interventions. This report gives priority to studies of suicide among Aboriginal people in Canada including status and non-status Indians, Inuit, and Métis, in rural and urban settings. However, relevant information on suicide among other Indigenous people in North America, Australia, and elsewhere, as well as on the general North American population, is included. In addition to reviewing research on established risk and protective factors for suicide, examining literature on physical and sexual abuse, residential schools, and related social stressors, even where suicide was not explicitly studied in order to identify potential links, was completed. Finally, a review of current models of suicide prevention and mental health promotion was conducted in order to identify best practices that can be adapted to Aboriginal populations and communities. 

Suicide is a behaviour or action, not a distinct psychiatric disorder. Like any behaviour, it results from the interaction of many different personal, historical, and contextual factors. Suicide may be associated with a wide range of personal and social problems, and have many different contributing causes in any individual instance. In fact, suicide is only one index of the health and well-being of a population, and it is important to view suicide in the larger context of psychological and social health and well-being. Accordingly, this report will try to situate the experiences of Aboriginal people within the larger contexts of mental health and Canadian society (Kirmayer, Brass, and Tait, 2000)." (1-2).


Publication Information

Kirmayer, L. J., Brass, G. M., Holton, T., Paul, K., Simpson, C., Tait, C. L. Suicide Among Aboriginal People in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2007.

Kirmayer, L. J., Brass, G. M., Holton, T., Paul, K., Simpson, C., Tait, Caroline L. 
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