Raising the voices and experiences of Indigenous parents to create culturally relevant responses to youth suicide

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Still, Marni
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Indigenous youth suicide is very complex due to the lasting affects colonization has on the social, psychological, biological, environmental, economic, familial and structural factors that influence Indigenous youth and their mental health. In Canada, our Western ways of interventions and prevention are not easily accessible, culturally relevant, or highly affective for Indigenous children and youth. As a result, more than 20% of deaths among Indigenous youth are from suicide and Indigenous youth are also four to six times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous youth. Colonial factors such as family disconnect, loss and grief, substance abuse, and others, impact Indigenous youth’s mental health and in turn, suicide rates. There is a dearth of current research that includes the voices of parents, families, and communities directly affected by Indigenous youth suicide. This research gathered the experiences, stories, and knowledge of 8 Indigenous parents living in Manitoba who have lost a child to suicide or have had a child survive a suicide attempt. Through semi-structured interviews, their stories were thematically analyzed and organized with the intention of influencing future suicide preventions and interventions. The findings resulting from this study show how suicide effects not only Indigenous youth, but parents, families and communities and brings questions of ‘why’, immense feelings of loss and grief, shame and regret. Recommendations for policy, practice and research include: addressing colonial policies, increasing resource availability, incorporating spirituality and culture into interventions, decreasing stigma in communities, increasing training of practitioners and increasing research on culturally relevant factors that are preventative and that increase Indigenous community mental wellness.
Suicide, Youth, Mental health, Manitoba, Historical trauma, Canada, Social work, Indigenous