Mental Wellness through Culture: An Examination of Youth Suicide Rates in Canada’s Aboriginal Communities and Recommendations for Public Policy

  • Marla Turner
Keywords: youth, suicide, cultural continuity, cultural safety, social determinants, colonialism, self-determination, decolonization, communities, Aboriginal


This paper recognizes the high rate of Aboriginal youth suicide in Canada and the need for an intervention strategy. According to statistics, the high rate of suicide cannot be applied to all Aboriginal communities. There are areas where youth suicide is nonexistent, thus a blanket assumption, such as all Aboriginal youth are at an elevated risk, only perpetuates stigmatization. The biomedical focus of mainstream health care and colonial perspective of other services often fail to acknowledge the determinants behind youth suicide within Aboriginal communities. The literature reveals that healthy communities, with low rates of youth suicide, share a common identity, practice cultural continuity and are self-determining. In order to facilitate healthy environments for Aboriginal youth, Canadians must go beyond thinking of health in terms of treating symptoms. We must instead examine and address the historical and contemporary constructions of racism and cultural genocide and work toward developing public policy promoting culturally safe processes.
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