Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth says young Indigenous people in the province’s north have told him much more needs to be done to prevent suicide.
For more than a year, the advocate’s office interviewed 264 Indigenous young people from across the north to write the report, focusing on everything from bullying to lack of emotional support.
“Our kids are crying out for our help,” said Advocate for Children and Youth Corey O’Soup. “And as they cry out for help, they’re literally dying as we stand by and wait for tragedy to happen. Let’s not wait for the next kid to die.”
The numbers are staggering. According to the report, nearly half of the young people who died of suicide in Saskatchewan over the past five years were Indigenous. The suicide rate among First Nations people in the province is 4.3 times higher than the rate among non-First Nations people.
‘Let’s not wait for the next kid to die.’
– Sask. Child Advocate Corey O’Soup
While the issue of youth suicide has been studied many times in the past across the country, this is one of the first times a large number of children have been asked to give their opinions on problems and solutions.
“They opened up their hearts, they opened up their minds, and told us what they thought,” he said. “And I think that’s what’s most powerful in the report.”
Calls to action
The report is organized into five youth calls to action, including bullying prevention, more diverse activities for youth and making communities safer.
“Our youth are telling us exactly what we need in our communities,” he said. “It’s not only us that has to respond, everybody has to respond.”
O’Soup said the children also talked about how drugs and alcohol are affecting northern communities. While many of the kids said they lived an alcohol and drug free lifestyle, they told researchers that many people in their community don’t.
“Children, when it comes to drugs and alcohol, are more concerned about their parents and the adults in their communities,” he said. “They’re like, ‘I’m okay. Help my mom. Help my dad. Help my uncle. They’re the ones that need help.”
Ultimately, many of the children said it was most important to listen to what they had to say, and to ask lots of questions as to how they are doing.
“A lot of the time, they’re not doing fine,” he said. “You need to talk to them.”
O’Soup made a number of calls to actions for both the provincial and federal government, including the…