Prevention of youth suicide in indigenous communities in Canada

Prevention of youth suicide in indigenous communities in Canada

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Prevention of youth suicide in indigenous communities in Canada


Across Canada, the number of suicide among the youths in the aboriginal communities have elevated to high levels. Much can be learned through research of the general population concerning social factors, gender, age, and cultural variations. As such, there is a need to assess and develop suicide prevention approaches that are specific to the youth from the indigenous communities in Canada (CBC, 2017). Proper education and availability of resources will aid in reducing youth suicides in Canada among the indigenous communities. The proposal will be addressing the interpersonal theories and the “Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behavior Theory” in reducing youth suicide in the Canadian aboriginal communities. The theories are based on the socio-ecological models of explaining behaviors amongst populations. In an earlier report, we reviewed the literature on the statistics of youth suicides in Canada. We found that suicide rates could be controlled in Canada. Consistent with the findings of the literature on youth suicide prevention, we evaluated the causes, trends, and prevention strategies towards youth suicide in Canada. Considering that there is scant literature on the prevention programs for youth suicides, we assessed programs for the general population, including the youths that were considered for review. Our search covered articles published between the years 2016 and 2020, addressing suicide prevention in the indigenous communities of Canada.

Rationale focusing on the intervention of preventing youth suicide in indigenous communities in Canada

Initiatives towards suicide prevention amongst youths in Canada will be addressing the issues affecting the indigenous people in Canada that increase the risk for negative outcomes, including incomplete geographical coverage that results in conflicts, stress, and, eventually, suicide. The youth often experience barriers towards accessing services that could lead to the prevention of youth suicides in the indigenous communities in Canada.Initiatives towards youth suicide prevention will be guided by sound practice principles.

Firstly, we will be incorporating comprehensive multidimensional approaches that involve selective and universal targeting, range of settings and sectors, the spectrum of interventions, and multiple levels of actions in the socio-ecological models (Pollock et al. 2018). The frontier will be ensuring effective interventions that base programs on the best available research evidence, including the interpersonal and the “Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behavior Theories.” The evidence that will be used to develop effective strategies would include research on protective and risk factors, intervention efficacy evaluation, and evaluation of program effectiveness.

Secondly, we will be making it possible to access programs and services for remote and rural communities through support teams and networking strategies (Canada, 2016). The frontier will ensure the engagement of hard-to-reach and marginalized persons within the indigenous Canadian communities. Also, building capacity at all levels of systems that offer services, especially at local social ecologies where resources and cultural values will be strengthened based on indigenous traditions and knowledge. Initiatives in suicide preventions will be community-based, implemented, and developed in a systematic and comprehensive policy framework context that brings together partnerships between the community and the youths in these areas.

Finally, we will be improving health research to incorporate evidence-based practice by adapting interventions that are culturally appropriate to the community is recommendable. The interventions will be including restricting access to the conventional means of suicide, providing school-based programs that educate the students on coping skills and training the school staff and teachers on how to recognize persons at the risk of committing suicide, and guiding them towards accessing counseling or mental health services (Centre for Suicide Prevention, 2020). Training youths as natural helpers or peer counselors to those at risk will also take place. We will be ensuring the availability and access to various mental health services, including psychotherapy and counseling. These will include mobilizing the communities and the youths in particular to develop programs that will prevent suicide among youths as well as teams for crisis interventions. We will provide culturally appropriate support for the youths and their families that promote positive parenting in early childhood towards adolescence. The youths will be educated on community activities that harmonize the youths and their elders in sharing cultural values, knowledge, and perspectives. We will also be encouraging the youth to use social media in portraying appropriate suicide prevention ways. The ways will include improved communication, knowledge coordination and translation of youth suicide prevention, and promotion of mental health.

Theories operating at different levels of the socio-ecological model in addressing youth suicide

The socio-ecological model

The socio-ecological model considers individuals and their association to others in society, including organization and the community at large. The model is effective at the stage of individual, interpersonal, organizational, communal, and public policy. The individual-level targets personal skills and knowledge, which can help an individual identify the threat, in this case, youth suicide, its seriousness, and the extent of its risk. The interpersonal level is concerned with an individual’s relationship with others; in this case, family members and friends who regularly interact with the youth about the suicide risks. The organizational level reaches more community members, for instance, schools that may refer the students to counseling or psychotherapy services. The community is the culmination of different organizations in the area addressing youth suicide. The public policy is the establishment of government laws and agencies that enforce laws on reducing youth suicide in the indigenous communities in Canada.

“The interpersonal theory of suicide” and its rationale for the use

The use of “the interpersonal theory of suicide” aids in understanding the causes of suicide among the youths in aboriginal communities in Canada. “The interpersonal theory of suicide” cites that people commit suicide due to the presence of burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness. The desire for suicide alone cannot result in suicide, but, instead, one has to acquire the capability of overcoming the natural fear of death. In terms of belonging, the aspect is a psychological health need that makes one connected to the social constructs around them. The interpersonal theory of suicide, in this case, can be explained through the article of Jones, 2019 that highlights that Metis and Inuit communities in Canada have suffered oppression since their birth to their demise. Therefore, people lack social connectedness and belongingness, leading to the need for suicide. Reilly, 2019 also cites that the indigenous Canadian communities, that is, the Metis and the Inuit, have faced injustices that have led to perceived burdensomeness. In this case, the youths may perceive that their death is worth more than their living, as shown by Kumar, Tjepkema & Statistics, Canada (2019). The provocative experiences by the Metis and the Inuit, ranging from racial and gender stereotypes, has promoted youth suicide.

“Integrated motivational volitional model of suicide” and its rationale for the use

“The integrated motivational volitional model of suicide theory” explains suicide in terms of the individual level in the socio-ecological model. The theory takes place in three phases that are useful in explaining how to prevent suicide amongst the youths in indigenous communities in Canada. First, the pre-motivational phase, where triggering effects and vulnerability factors become the basis for developing suicidal thoughts. The center for suicide prevention 2020 highlights high rates of poverty as one of the factors that lead to youth suicide since most of the youths that commit suicide hail from financially unstable families. The motivational phase, being the second phase, shows how and why the suicide ideas emerge. The center for suicide prevention 2020 shows that social isolation as a result of poverty leads to high rates of poverty among the Metis and Inuit youths. The volitional stage is the phase in which commits suicide. The stage can be avoided through volitional moderators, where the affected individuals are made to see other alternatives towards their predicament. For instance, Canada, 2016 highlights the moral and cognitive support introduced to the youths leading to the creation of awareness on psychological counseling initiatives. The theory informs the government and organizations such as schools on the importance of introducing positive environments that reduce the occurrence of suicide among the Inuit and Metis youths.

Proposal for multilevel intervention to address the issue

            Youth suicide prevention among the indigenous Canadian communities will be classified according to the level of actions taken:

The primary level of suicide prevention the prevention measure will focus on improving the mental health of the Inuit and Metis youths who have not displayed any behavior suggesting a pending suicide. The primary intervention strategies will be targeting particular individuals and the community at large. For instance, life skills education in school, providing accessible and useful mental health services for the indigenous communities, and introducing parenting programs. The primary intervention will be long-term programs.

The secondary suicide prevention programs these programs will target persons who have shown suicidal behaviors. Government platforms such as crisis counseling and telephone hotlines will be used for these individuals.

The tertiary suicide prevention programsthe programs target those individuals who have attempted suicide at some point and have a higher chance of recurrence. The programs will also target friends and family members of the victim who have high chances of developing mental health problems. The program will be carried out in schools and hospitals through counseling.

Selective interventionsthe interventions will be focusing, specifically, on the Inuit and Metis youths who show suicide and self-harm risks. Pollock et al. 2018 cite that hospitalization in cases where self-injury has taken place will aid the Canadian youths from committing suicide. Emergency visits will also take place from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System to help in preventing suicide among these youths.

Universal interventionsthese will be focusing on the entire Inuit and Metis communities aiming at decreasing the risk of suicide for the whole population. Canada, 2016 shows that the federal government has introduced sensitive information in “the federal framework for suicide prevention” to promote peace and unity amongst the Canadians.

Indicated interventionsthe interventions provide specific services to the affected individuals. For instance, counseling and treatment will be offered to the youths suffering from depression or those who have been, actively, suicidal. The interventions will also focus on the family members and friends to the youths who have committed suicide.


Canada. (2016). Working together to prevent suicide in Canada: The 2016 progress report on

the federal framework for suicide prevention. Place of publication not identified: Public

Health Agency of Canada.

CBC News. (2017). Indigenous people need resources 24/7 to cut suicide rates, the committee

recommends. Retrieved from

Centre for Suicide Prevention. (2020). Indigenous Suicide Prevention. Retrieved


Jones, S. (2019). Let the people speak: Oppression in a time of reconciliation. Winnipeg,

Manitoba: J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing

Kumar, M. B., Tjepkema, M. W., & Statistics, Canada. (2019). Suicide among First Nations

people, Métis and Inuit (2011-2016): Finding from the 2011 Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC). [Ottawa]: Statistics Canada = Statistique Canada

Pollock, N. J., Healey, G. K., Jong, M., Valcour, J. E., & Mulay, S. (2018). Tracking progress in

suicide prevention in Indigenous communities: a challenge for public health surveillance in Canada. Bmc Public Health, 18, 1.)

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2018). Language matters: Safe language and messages for

suicide prevention. [Ottawa]: Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2019). Suicide in Canada: Key statistics. [Ottawa]: Public

Health Agency of Canada = Agence de la santé publique du Canada

Reilly, J. (2019). Bad medicine: A judge’s struggle for justice in a First Nations community.

[Victoria, British Columbia]: Rocky Mountain Books, Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Electronic Library


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