Government of Canada Needs To Fund Mental Health Programs on Canadian Reserves

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Aboriginal children as young as 9-17 years old are taking their own lives, on Canadian reserves, everyday. This suicide epidemic affecting Aboriginal communities across Canada has been a national issue for far too long.

In the spring of 2016, Attawapiskat First Nations in Ontario declared a state of emergency, after 11 young people tried to end their lives by suicide. The news story made national headlines, but this was not the first or only suicide crisis among Aboriginal people in Canada in recent years.

In fact, on the same reserve in September 2015, five teenage girls tried to take their own lives, by ingesting a large volume of an unknown number of medications. The girls needed to leave the reservation for treatment. Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the Attawapiskat reserve said that there are no specialised mental health workers within the community to help with such a crisis.

"We need a mental health worker, we need a youth worker", he said. "We need training dollars to train up our workers."

Aboriginal children are more prone to depression and mental illnesses because of isolation; inequity, such as poverty; and lack of access to healthcare, physical and sexual abuse, and drug and alcohol exposure. As a result, suicide occurs 5 to 6 times more often among Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children in Canada. According to the Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada, a 2006 report by the Public Mental Health Agency of Canada, First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average.

Suicide affects not only individuals within Aboriginal communities but Canada at large. Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death. It is estimated, that in 2009 alone, there were about 100,000 years of potential life lost to Canadians under the age of 75, as a result of suicides. According to Statistics Canada, research shows that mental illness is the most important risk factor to suicide and that more than 90% of Canadians who commit suicide have a mental or addictive disorder. Depression is the most common illness among those who die from suicide, with approximately 60% suffering from this condition.

I am empathetic to those Aboriginal children, on reserves, who are suffering from mental illnesses and not getting the help they need.

Stand with me and ask the Government of Canada to fund mental health programs on Canadian Reserves. Together we can make a difference. Be the reason that an Aboriginal child is getting the mental health support that they need and not the apathy that they have become accustomed to.