WINNIPEG – Mental well-being is influenced by factors such as mastery, social support, and positive cultural identity. Mental wellness must be promoted and protected from an early age. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are working in the area of suicide prevention to create awareness of the signs and symptoms of those who may be at risk and providing training on how to intervene.
Mental well-being must be supported
In addition, youth leaders at Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs assisted in the creation of the C.E.P.S. Youth Leadership Development curriculum, a youth suicide prevention model which focuses on developing leadership skills and a positive cultural identity among First Nation youth.
The eight week CEPS program was developed for Aboriginal youth by Aboriginal youth. It was geared towards the re-vitalization and re-connection to culture; Education on the history of the First People; United approaches to self-determination; Skills and knowledge in the four areas and youth empowerment for the preparation of leadership roles.
The CEPS program connects youth with community resources, regional services and increases capacity building for youth empowerment.
Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Week in Canada, where one in five Canadians are affected by mental illness. Although the rates of mental illness are not known in the First Nation community, it is estimated to be higher than in the general population. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs feel that it is important to acknowledge this week as Health Canada reported in 2012 that suicide occurs five to six times more among First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth than the general public.
“Suicide has a huge impact within our First Nations communities as many are close knit and it affects the whole community. Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst the 15 to 24 years age category and this rate increases highly when it comes to our First Nations youth,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. “There needs to be more focus on how we can build stronger foundations for our youth so that suicide is not considered an option in moments of crises,” added Grand Chief Nepinak.
Mental illness is influenced by many factors including chronic or acute stress, low socio-economic status, experiences with aggression and racism, and early childhood experiences. Addressing the social determinants of health such as housing, poverty and education would make a huge difference in the mental health of First Nation youth in Manitoba.
AMC is calling on both the provincial and federal governments to work with First Nations in ensuring that supports are provided for prevention programs and that access to mental health services are equitable across Manitoba. The programs should be community-based, community-paced and community-led as they are of great importance in the self-determination and improvement of mental health among First Nations youth and extremely important in the area of suicide prevention.