A state of emergency was declared after 11 members of a single, remote community of Aboriginal Canadians tried to take their lives earlier this month. But as many indigenous and political leaders noted, the issue isn’t isolated to Attawapiskat Canada — it isn’t even limited to Canada.
According to a report by Survive International, interference by outside forces has effected indigenous communities around the world for the worst.
“Forcing development on tribal peoples never brings a longer, happier life, but a shorter, bleaker existence only escaped in death,” the reports’ authors wrote last year
In fact, one of the most effective ways to prevent suicide among indigenous communities is instilling a sense of their heritage, or “cultural continuity,” as Christopher Lalonde, a University of Victoria psychologist who has studied the issue, put it.
“The government spent 150 years trying to get rid of cultural resiliency, so it becomes a precious commodity,” Lalonde told the CBC. “The notion that ‘My culture is alive, and I am my culture’ is just deeply important.”
Here’s a sense of how deeply suicide impacts indigenous communities around the world.
— Indigenous people generally have a lower life expectancy than their non-native counterparts, according to a new report that looked at half of the world’s indigenous population. The difference is most stark among the Baka in Cameroon who are expected to live 21.5 less years than others in Cameroon.
— Suicide rates among Canadian aboriginal youth were at least 10 times higher than for the general population of young people, according to the country’s health minister Jane Philpott. Suicide is the leading cause of death for indigenous people under the age of 45.
— Although suicide has been called an “epidemic” among Canada’s First Nations, it is isolated to certain communities. Just 10 percent of First Nations communities in British Columbia accounted for more than 90 percent of suicides, according to Lalonde’s findings.
— In the United States, suicide primarily claims the lives of middle-aged white people, but 40 percent of Native Americans who commit suicide are between the ages of 15 and 24. Native Americans have the highest rates of suicide for any ethnic group for the 18 to 24 age range.
— Native Alaskans had a suicide rate of 51 percent between 2003 and 2006, compared to a 16.9 percent rate among non-Native Alaskans.
— The suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was 2.6 times higher than the suicide rate for non-Indigenous Australians.
— The suicide rate among the Guaraní-Kaiowa indigenous is 34 times higher than the national average.