he call to Distress Centre
Calgary’s Connec Teen
came from an 18-year-old
aboriginal woman living on
a reserve. She told the young
man who answered, and
was about the same age,
She spoke of how she was of tired of her
life. She admitted to considering suicide
as a way out.
The well-trained Distress Centre
Calgary volunteer listened to her, told
her he understood how she must feel, and
took the time to respond thoughtfully.
He asked her to recall happier times
and to reflect on what made those times
good. He talked to her about how she’d
managed to cope with her distress in
By the end of the call the girl said
she felt better and agreed that she would
reach out for help and that she would
call again if she felt the need.
That was one of more than 76,000 calls
the Distress Centre fielded in 2011. Seven
per cent, or about 5,300 of the calls were
related to suicide. Not all were youth,
but suicide is the second leading cause
of death among teens in Alberta, with
vehicle collisions being first.
A CULTURAL DISTRESS SIGNAL
Aboriginal youth are at most risk of
suicide. They are more than five times
more likely to die by suicide than the
Casey Eagle Speaker, an elder and
an aboriginal resource liaison consultant
with Hull Child and Family Services,
says the risk stems from many factors:
residential school trauma; drug and
alcohol addiction among families, children
and youth; a lack of opportunities on
reservations; and widespread discrimination and culture shock off the reservation.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens in Canada.
As writer Anne Georg reports, suicide can be prevented.
It’s all a matter of knowing the signs.
Illustration by Dave Jackson
KNOW THE SIGNS