“There’s nothing for them to get
ahead. There is a lack of hope,” he says.
“Our two societies need to work
together to open the doors of opportunity
for aboriginal youth,” Eagle Speaker says.
“They need to get an education and
to go to university. We need to tell them
‘Your education is your spear and your
university degree is your shield for you
to protect your people, language and
culture and put you in your rightful
spot in society.’”
Although suicide is considered and
attempted by people across all cultures
and all ages, adolescents are particularly
vulnerable, in part because of their physiology. It’s a difficult time when children
experience psychological and physical
changes. Their brains are changing.
They feel pressure to move away from
their parents and establish their own
identity. Changes in their brain can
make them more impulsive and moody.
“Things that protect kids are family
cohesion, a sense of belonging to a
community and doing well at school,”
offers Catherine Davis, a provincial
suicide prevention coordinator with
Population and Public Health, Alberta
Health Services. “Young people who
are self-confident, have a good sense of
humour, feel that they belong somewhere,
and can go to someone if they get into
trouble—don’t usually take their own
Isolation is a significant risk factor in
suicide attempts—especially for boys.
Davis explains that, on average, girls
connect with friends more than boys.
“Boys aren’t trained to ask for help,”
she says and adds that although girls
attempt suicide more often, boys are more
likely to die from suicide. “One thing
we can focus on in families is helping
our children to build coping skills and
letting them know it’s okay to ask for
help. This is something we must build
AT GREATER RISK
Sexuality can often play a role in suicide.
When compared to their heterosexual
peers, lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered (LBGT) youth are more likely
to experience hopelessness, homelessness,
drug or alcohol abuse, previous sexual
abuse, unsettled relationships with
their families and difficulties at school.
They may also face isolation because
they don’t conform to societal gender
expectations and experience harassment,
bullying, violence and emotional conflict
about their sexuality.
Because of this, LBGT youth are two to
three times more likely to attempt suicide
than their heterosexual peers.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR. WHAT TO DO.
Knowing the following risk factors, warning signs and actions could help you prevent a youth from
attempting suicide. Compiled by Monique Martin-Parent, a nursing graduate from Mount Royal University.
• Social isolation
• Use of alcohol and/or drugs
• Stressful events (losses)
• Chaotic family environment
• Exposure to violence (including bullying)
in home and environment
• Family history of suicide
• Self-harm and self-injury
• Previous mental health problems and/or
• Fascination and preoccupation with death
• Change in behaviour
• Risk-taking behaviour
• Disinterest in activities and social withdrawal
• Arranging unusual plans for the future
(e.g., giving precious items away)
• Poor awareness of basic needs (e.g., poor
awareness of whether hungry, too hot,
• Signs of mood disorder (e.g., dulled or
exaggerated responses, lack of appetite
and motivation, poor sleep pattern)
• Voiced thoughts or plans of suicide (all plans
need to be taken seriously)
WHAT TO DO
• Foster good relationships and open
• Use age-appropriate language
• Understand the child’s/youth’s concept
• Identify suicidal risk and urgency
• Ensure protection from self-harm (contact
Children’s Services if legal guardians do not
• Reduce access to methods of self-harm
• Increase safety in the environment
• Support coping strategies
• Provide list of contacts
• Foster family/community support
• Follow up consistently