Suicide prevention groups from both the U.S. and Canada joined forces in early December at a Montreal conference to study ways to keep indigenous youth from taking their lives.
The suicide among aboriginal youth is many times the rate of the rest of the population, but especially so in Nunavik’s arctic region where the Inuit live, where it’s seven times the national rate of 11.3 suicides per 100,000. The more remote the village, the worse it is, with a rate up to 11 times higher than the Canadian average, according to Mary Simon of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s national Inuit organization.
The conference, Dialogue for Life, drew 900 participants, according to the organizers, including elders, community workers, natural care givers, families and many youth who “gathered to learn, share, honor and celebrate life together,” the group said on its Web site.
Among them were representatives from the Kiowa Teen Suicide Prevention Program (KTSP), one of six groups chosen to represent the U.S. in Montreal at the Dialogue for Life Conference, which took place from November 29 through December 2, 2010. It was one of six U.S. youth programs in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Suicide Prevention Meeting with Health Canada, the Canadian public health ministry.
Health Canada also showcased 12 of its most successful and effective youth programs, the Kiowa tribe said in a November news release. The two countries joined forces to address the high suicide rate in Native American tribes as well as First Nation and Inuit groups in Canada.
KTSP was selected because of its Life Skills class taught by KTSP program director Amy Cozad, in which students learn communication, problem-solving and coping skills, and get tips on making positive choices. Now in its third year, the class is given to all 10th graders and alternative education students in the Ft. Cobb/Broxton school district, the Kiowa said.
The conference was sponsored by The First Nations and Inuit Suicide Prevention Association of Quebec (FNISPAQ), a nonprofit Aboriginal organization with more than 300 Inuit and First Nations members.