Suicide

A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue

Introduction

The suicide rate refers to the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population, (age adjusted) [1]. Suicidal behaviours extend beyond suicide deaths to include suicide ideation (thoughts of suicide), as well as suicide attempts (suicidal behaviour not resulting in death). Suicide is a major problem among Aboriginal communities and is the leading cause of potential years of life lost (PYLL) among First Nations and Inuit populations. In British Columbia between 2005 and 2007, 20% of youth suicides were among Aboriginal youth, with one quarter of those Aboriginal youth suicides being among girls [2]. There are a number of factors contributing to the high suicide rates among First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples, including: loss and/or changes in language and culture; poverty; low levels of education; limited employment opportunities; inadequate living conditions; historical legacy of residential schools including family life disruption; physical, sexual and abuse [3]; and high levels of alcohol and drug misuse [4].

First Nations

The First Nations suicide rate is exceptionally high at 24 per 100,000 in 2000. First Nations women are more likely to have thought about committing suicide than men (33% versus 29%) and are much more likely to have attempted suicide (19% versus 13%).Youth suicides are also very prevalent in First Nations populations. On-reserve First Nations youth are 5-7 times more likely to die from suicide compared to the Canadian youth in the general population [5]. Gender differences in suicide ideation and attempts are apparent in youth suicide as well. For example, 21% of girls aged 15-17 reported attempting suicide, a rate that is three times that of boys in the same age group.  This pattern is apparent between males and females of all age groups [6].

Métis

Nationally collected suicide data for Métis people are currently unavailable. Suicide has, however been identified as a major concern among Métis communities [7, 8]. According to Women of the Métis Nation report, about 16% of Métis women reported contemplating suicide and 8% reported attempting suicide. Although Métis men are more likely to complete suicide, 14% of Métis women reported having attempted suicide compared to 4% of men. The number of Métis women who have considered attempting suicide (14%) is higher compared to women in the Canadian population (3.8%) [8, 9].

Inuit

The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami identified suicide prevention as the number one health concern among the Inuit population.  According to 2001 Census data, the suicide rate of all Inuit regions was 135 per 100,000, which is more than 10 times the Canadian rate [10]. In 2002, the suicide rate for the Inuit population as a whole was 79/100,000. The suicide rate is higher among Inuit men; 15% of suicides occurring among women [11]. The rate of youth suicide among Inuit youth is among the highest in the world and is 11 times the national average [12].  The suicide rate is highest in Nunavik ( 82 per 100,000)  followed by Nunatsiavut (80 per 100,000) and Nunavut (77 per 100,000).  Inuvialuit had the lowest suicide rate of the Inuit regions (18/ 100,000) [13].

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