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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp e208–e210 | Cite as

Reclaiming Indigenous identities: Culture as strength against suicide among Indigenous youth in Canada

  • Brittany Barker
  • Ashley Goodman
  • Kora DeBeck
Commentary
  • 1 Downloads

Abstract

In Canada, Indigenous youth suicide represents one of several health disparities burdening Indigenous populations, and like many other of these disparities, can be understood as an expression of societal, historical, cultural and familial trauma. As the number of Indigenous youth who take their own lives every year in Canada continues to far exceed national averages, it appears that conventional suicide prevention efforts remain ineffective among this population. A growing body of research argues that conventional interventions, largely rooted in Western individual-level behavioural change frameworks, are culturally discordant with Indigenous paradigms. In response, some Indigenous communities are turning to cultural revitalization as a holistic community-driven response to suicide prevention and treatment. The following commentary explores the emerging evidence base for “culture as treatment” - a novel approach to suicide that emphasizes the significance of interconnectedness in healing, alongside the revitalization of traditional values to reclaim community wellness. In doing so, we seek to contribute to a changing discourse surrounding Indigenous youth suicide by acknowledging culture as strength against this national crisis.

Key Words

health services Indigenous population groups adolescent 

Résumé

Au Canada, le suicide chez les jeunes Autochtones n’est que l’une des disparités d’état sanitaire qui écrasent les populations autochtones; comme bien d’autres de ces disparités, il peut être compris comme étant l’expression de traumatismes sociétaux, historiques, culturels et familiaux. Le nombre de jeunes Autochtones qui s’enlèvent la vie chaque année au Canada continue de dépasser largement les moyennes nationales; il semble donc que les efforts classiques de prévention du suicide demeurent inefficaces dans cette population. Un corpus croissant de recherche fait valoir que les interventions classiques, qui s’inscrivent en grande partie dans les cadres occidentaux de modification individuelle des comportements, sont culturellement en décalage avec les paradigmes autochtones. En réaction, certaines communautés autochtones voient dans le renouveau culturel une réponse holistique communautaire à la prévention et au traitement du suicide. Notre commentaire explore les fondements scientifiques émergents de «la culture comme traitement» - une démarche novatrice face au suicide qui met l’accent sur l’importance de l’interdépendance dans la guérison, en plus du renouveau des valeurs traditionnelles, pour recouvrer le mieux-être communautaire. Ce faisant, nous voulons contribuer à changer le discours entourant le suicide chez les jeunes Autochtones en reconnaissant que la culture est une force contre cette crise nationale.

Mots Clés

suicide services de santé pour autochtones groupes de population adolescent 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brittany Barker
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ashley Goodman
    • 1
  • Kora DeBeck
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.BC Centre for Substance UseBC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul’s HospitalVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate ProgramUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.School of Public PolicySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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