Indigenous Youth Suicide

Abstract

The increasing rate of youth suicide among indigenous youth has placed an enormous burden on the community. Therefore, there is need for research on the different factors that lead to this phenomenon to device corrective measures. This research paper entails an exploration into the current knowledge regarding the social inequalities and their effect on American Indian youth communities.

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It focuses on health, social, and health care disparities as they impact American Indian youths among other North American youths leading to suicide. The essay established the varying strategies that must form the basis in which any conscientious intervention effort is focused upon, as well as possibilities for early childhood intervention. Suicide among the indigenous youth in North America has always recorded a higher number than the national average.

Keywords: poverty, social disparity, mental health, youth suicide, substance abuse

Indigenous Youth Suicide

Elevated indigenous suicide among the youth may be regarded as perhaps the most visible poignant marker of the additional physical and psychological burden many in American and Australian indigenous population more so, the ones in the rural and remote settings. The increasing rate of youth suicide among the North Americans indigenous community has been a thing of concern (Kral, 2012, p.306). Suicide among the youth has in turn been considered a major concern for the communities, as the rates have been recoded alarmingly higher those non-indigenous communities. Indigenous youth suicide has been an outcome of different factors such as social inequality between the communities, preference of substance abuse.

Youth suicide has been a national crisis for decades (Kirmayer et al., 2003, p.1). The first nations in Canada can for example be identified to have suicide rates higher than that of the national average. Focusing on the Inuit communities, the rates are even higher with cases recoding multiple social and individual courses. This has in turn led to varying researches and adoption of varying programs in relation to suicide prevention among the indigenous communities focusing on integrating the indigenous knowledge with the evidence-established prevention approaches.

Suicide is the 7th most common cause of death among North American males, and tenth among both male and female combined. Indigenous American reservation inequality underlines a range of societal issues which affects the lives of North American populations who resides on reservations in the US. Poverty, discriminatory aspects among other social vices in the region has led to increasing social inequality.

The increasing disparities between the communities in the North America such as between the national and reservation level, such as educational quality, health care quality, substance abuse, teenage problems such as pregnancies, violence and suicide rates being on the rise have all been significant factors demonstrating the aspect of inequality opportunities and situations have increased the menace of youth suicide in north American reservations compared to other regions. Thesis Statement: social inequality contributes to youth suicide among indigenous youth in North America.

Different contributing factors have been aligned with the increased rate of youth suicide rate among the Indigenous North American youth. Mental health, substance use, depression and relationships are some of the causing factors attributed to the high suicide rate among the youth. More so, the increased rate of social inequality is more of harm to the menace, as it is regarded as a catalyst. Suicide is an action or a behavior and not a distinct psychiatric disorder. Just like any other human behavior, suicide results from an interaction from different histories, and social, personal and contextual factors (Gray, 2016, p.81).

The suicide menace may be related to a wide range of social and personal problems. On the other hand, suicide is the only menace that acts as the index for health and the wellbeing of any given population, in this case the North America indigenous youth. However, it is important to view suicide among the youth from the larger context of social health and psychological context well-being. Drawing from the different peer reviewed article, suicide is cannot be said to be a single source population problem among the youth, but instead arises from the interaction of social circumstances and personal ones.

The Socioeconomic Factors behind Youth Suicide

Socioeconomic factors are a huge determinant of the risk of suicide among indigenous youth. These factors include lack of proper education, unemployment, discrimination, and poverty. Therefore, the need to device effective strategies to curb the youth suicide menace in North America have led to the adoption of establishment and promotion of equality among the communities (Charles & DeGagné, 2013, p.352). Substance abuse has been taken as one of the factors attributed to youth suicide.

Evidence has been established linking mental health with substances about, more so among relatives of trauma survivors (Amrita et al., 2015, p.63). The dilapidated healthcare facilities, as well as living conditions, have contributed in a great extent towards youth being prone to suicidal idea and thoughts (Amrita et al., 2015, p.70). The disproportionately negative health status indicators and the well-being of the youth in Canada, aboriginal youth, have contributed to the youth community being exposed to suicidal thoughts.

On the other hand, the economic status of the aboriginal community has contributed to inability to provide the best or quality education to the youth. This in turn leads to an increased number of youths passing through the dilapidated system, and the cultural setting indulges them to social vices such as substance use, crime, prostitution, etc. in the context of massive social change, suicide among the indigenous youth have emerged as a public concern and priority. The rates have been on the rise amongst the Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), New Zealand (Maori people), Canada (First Nations/Indian, Inuit and Métis people) and the US (American Indian people). In the past, older people in the indigenous community were the prone victims of suicide (Christine et al., 2015, p.9). However, in recent decades, the trend hugely becomes more prone to the youth.

More so, the ones between the ages of 15-24 are more prone to the suicide problem compared to other age group. The suicide rate among Canada’s Inuit youth under the historic period of 18 were disturbingly high; between 1994 and 2008 rates of suicide were 30 times higher compared to the residual of the under-18 population. For example, Inuit adolescents are subjected to intense acculturation pressures that do not exist for other adolescent populations. These pressures create problems for youth in their struggle to establish their own identity (Christine et al, 2015, p. 9).

In addition, social economic status of the indigenous communities there is the historical context as well as the consensus of colonization. The cases of suicide among the indigenous populations cannot be fully addressed without the review and acknowledgement of the regions preceding historical context. The Indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and North America, amongst others, experienced a similar story of colonization by European colonists.

For example, in Austria and Canada, the indigenous people were defined by torture and loss of life during colonization. This period also marked interruption of life, culture disruption through acts of dispossession from their ancestral land and relocation to reserves, incidents that worsened their lives. More so, is the reserves suppression of traditional activities and language, separation of families, economic marginalisation and systemic discrimination. Factors which all accelerated to the dilapidated way of life of the indigenous. The lasting effects of the settlement, such as health and socioeconomic disadvantage are comparable across the Indigenous populations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and North America.

Kirmayer, Simpson & Cargo (2003, p.2) explain that the life expectancy of the aboriginal in Australia and North America was found to be the lowest amongst the indigenous and non-indigenous population groups all over the globe. Various writers have maintained that the real health and socioeconomic disadvantage currently experienced by indigenous people in North America is a symptom of the complex interplay between the consequences of the past and present events. The experience of colonization, resulting in marginalisation and social exclusion in the form of racism and exclusion from economic and civic participation has precipitated the current state of disadvantage. Social, economic and educational disadvantage are recognized as important risk factors for suicide, especially among new people.

Culture and Effect of Trauma on Mental Health and Suicide

A study by Kral (2012, p.306), examined the cases of suicide among the youth and the effect of cultural continuity. Granting to the author, indigenous self-control over aspects of cultivation and community which encompassed several markers – self-government; land rights litigation; local control over health, education and police services; and functioning of cultural facilities. If they lose language and connection to culture they become ‘a nobody’ from inside and that’s enough to put them over the edge.  On the other hand, an estimated 30% of the indigenous community experienced high levels of psychological distress.

This was more than 2.5 times compared to non –indigenous community/population (Kral, 2012, p.308). Consequently, high levels of psychological distress can the attributed to varying stressors or cases of traumatic events among the indigenous population in North America. Trauma can describe as an experience of one or multiple stressors such as cases of health issue, unemployment, family breakdown, death of close relatives, financial strains; racism violence among other depravities can be the basis for trauma among people.

Exposure to traumatic accelerators was a common thing among the indigenous communities, with an estimated 60 precent, proving to have experienced at least one stressor in his/her lives (Amrita et al., 2015, p.14).  Some of the identified stressors include: included the death of a family member or friend (37%), a serious illness (23%), unemployment (23%) and mental illness (16%) (Gray, 2016, p.90). Compared to non-indigenous population, this rate was found to be 1.4 times more. On the other hand, trauma can be passed through generations from childhood to generation. For example, the trauma experienced during childhood perpetuates abuse and destructive behaviours during their adult life.

With reference to the indigenous communities traumatic events can be regarded as a common feature of their history and well through the generations (Goodkind et al., 2010, p.386). The continued presence of traumatic generators among the youth has in turn led to increased cases of youth suicide. In the case of youth, the use of substance among the youth, racism, poor health facilities, inequity in terms of education and health facilities, unemployment are some of the key stressors when it comes to dilapidated mental health, hence the cases of un-ending traumatic ordeal.

One of the keys and detrimental stages in human development is the adolescent stage. The stage is marred with emotional instability, risk taking, among other key defining behaviours as one focuses on sustainability (Charles & DeGagné, 2013, p.2). However, for youth who have had victims of traumatic occurrences in their lives, or have been through abuse and neglect. Cases of post-traumatic stress among the youth may be associated with an inability of youth to cope with the demands of youth development.

In order to provide an effective approach to such an unstable youth problem, acculturation is adopted. This in turn leads to acculturation of massive pressure that doesn’t face other non-indigenous youths, hence creating a unique problem to the indigenous youth (Aguilera & Plasencia, 2005). The environment in which the youths in the indigenous population expose to massive and negatives which on the other hand acts as catalyst of trauma related disorders. One approach to helping youths in such scenario include: the provision of aaccess to resources that are enjoyed by the non-indigenous North Americans. However, it should be in a manner that reflects their distinct identity.

Intervention Strategies for Indigenous Youth Suicide in North America

The high rate of indigenous youth suicide necessitates the development of solid programs to eradicate it. There are different intervention measures that can be embraced to reduce or control the causing factors behind the indigenous youth suicide (Christine et al., 2015, p.23). Suicide is preventable menace in the population (Gray, 2016, p.86). With reference to the article and sources used, different preventive measures have been coined to help in controlling the spread of the identified menace (indigenous youth suicide). The prevention measures entail universal, selective interventions, and indicated interventions as some of the approaches to youth suicide prevention. In terms of universal interventions towards the problem, at national level, the prevention measures against the menace ought to be comprehensive and multi-sectorial at the same time.

On the other hand, selective, interventions are focused to work with the venerable population or communities with a focus to establish and build resilience. In addition, when working with vulnerable community, the focus is on establishing and building for supportive environment. Individual and community level may not in any way exhibit suicidal behavior. However, they may also be at an elevated level of socioeconomic or psychological risk (Sarche, 2011, p.158). With reference to the selected measures towards fighting youth suicide, community engagement was an effective method in this category. Other measures include; community involvement and provision of social support for vulnerable personnel’s, fighting stigma, and offering support to people whose loved ones committed suicide. Finally, Goodkind et al (2010, p.386), advocated for culturally tailored for Indigenous people, gatekeeper training and other educational activities were successful in reducing suicide vulnerability.

Finally, the articles identified indicated intervention as another approach towards alleviation of the suicide problem. These interventions focus on vulnerable individuals who depict signs they might suffer from the problem or show a heightened condition that may increase their risk of committing suicide. In addition to discussing the indigenous youth suicide factors behind the problem, the article also established effective implementation measures to control the menace. From the article, moves such as early identification as well treatment of any condition that may fuel suicidal ideas can be of great help in curbing the spread of the menace in the modern times (McCalman et al., 2016, p.7). Early treatment of mental disorders, alcohol abuse would be effective in helping the indigenous communication in receiving the care they need. More so, the fight against the suicide among the youth and the population at large should be incorporated as an integral or core component of health services.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the rate of indigenous youth suicide has been alarming prompting a research on the causative factors. This research paper focuses on the identification of information retained to indigenous youth suicide amongst the indigenous community in North America. The contributing factors behind this problem, reasons as to why it is more among the youths compared to rest of the population (non-indigenous) in other parts of the country. More so, approaches to suicide in aboriginal were explored. The articles used to establish the trend in the suicide vice amongst the youth, but further research into indigenous youth suicide and prevention amongst the indigenous is required.

Different key points were identified from the research. To begin with, compared to non-indigenous, suicide rates were significantly higher in Australia, Canada and North America more so among the indigenous community. The colonial experience suffered or experienced by the indigenous communities in their history is directly linked to the current status and the prevalence of economic and social disadvantages.

Major factors that can attributed to affect the indigenous suicide in Australia, Canada and other regions entails lack of continuity of one’s cultural identity, exposure to vices such as trauma, alcohol/substance abuse and also being a male (young). Nevertheless, effective measures to prevent youth suicide include community prevention detailed programs, for example Yirriman and Gatekeeping, however their success rate doesn’t have direct result terms of reducing suicide among the indigenous people.

The increased aspect of social inequality among the communities (indigenous community) can be attributed to be the main factor behind the youth suicide. Despite youth suicide being a major vice, adoption of localized approaches to alleviate the menace is essential for the success of the program (In Trovato & In Romaniuk, 2014, p.2).

More so, a system approach would mean the implementation of multiple evidence-based that would help by targeting multiple evidence based interventions. More so, the evolution in development and adoption of effective strategies means in terms of health care provision. Consequently, reduction of access to substance abuse awareness programs, school based programs as well youth group peer support, gatekeeper training, training of GPs, and high quality primary care treatment.

The focus on social inequality among the youth not only is an interesting topic, but also provides a platform in which a detailed research can be done towards improving the lives and living conduits of the indigenous communities in North America and globally at large. Nevertheless, the result of this review indicates there is a gap in terms of identifying the best and effective intervention strategies that can be adopted among the indigenous community. However, it is evident that, improving the indigenous people health care facilities and providers, it would go miles in alleviating the problem both directly and indirectly. The adoption of prevention strategies would serve as an ideal approach to reduce the number of victims as far as the youth suicide vice is concerned.

References

Aguilera, S., & Plasencia, A. V. (2005). Culturally Appropriate HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse Prevention Programs for Urban Native Youth. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 37 (3), 299-304.

Amrita. R., Raheem. N., Rita. I. & Wilfreda. T. (2015). Promising healing practices for interventions addressing intergenerational trauma among Aboriginal youth: A scoping review. 60-82. Retrieved November 3, 2017.

Charles, G., & DeGagné, M. (2013). Student-to-Student Abuse in the Indian Residential Schools in Canada: Setting the Stage for Further Understanding. Child & Youth Services, 34 (4), 343-359.

Christine, W., Randall L. Waechter, Eman L, and Monika L, (2015). Adolescence: A Window of Opportunity for Positive Change in Mental Health. A Journal on Innovation and Best Practices in Aboriginal Child Welfare Administration, Research, Policy & Practice.

Goodkind, J. R., Ross-Toledo, K., John, S., Hall, J. L., Ross, L., Freeland, L., & … Lee, C. (2010). Promoting Healing and Restoring Trust: Policy Recommendations for Improving Behavioral Health Care for American Indian/Alaska Native Adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46 (3/4), 386-394.

Gray, M. (2016). Pathologizing Indigenous Suicide: Examining the Inquest into the Deaths of C.J. and C.B. at the Manitoba Youth Centre. Studies in Social Justice, 10(1), 80.

In Trovato, F., & In Romaniuk, A. (2014). Aboriginal populations: Social, demographic, and epidemiological perspectives.

Kirmayer, L., Simpson, C., & Cargo, M. (2003). Indigenous Populations Healing traditions: culture, community and mental health promotion with Canadian Aboriginal peoples. Australasian Psychiatry, 11S15.

Kral, M. (2012). Postcolonial Suicide among Inuit in Arctic Canada. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 36 (2), 306-325.

McCalman, J., Bainbridge, R., Russo, S., Rutherford, K., Tsey, K., Wenitong, M., & … Jacups, S. (2016). Psycho-social resilience, vulnerability and suicide prevention: impact evaluation of a mentoring approach to modify suicide risk for remote Indigenous Australian students at boarding school. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 1-12.

Sarche, M. C. (2011). American Indian and Alaska native children and mental health: Development, context, prevention, and treatment. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.

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