Alberta child advocate wants suicide prevention for aboriginal youth

Alberta's child advocate is calling on the province to fund a suicide prevention strategy to tackle what he calls a "terrible trend of aboriginal youth suicide."

EDMONTON — Alberta’s child advocate is calling on the province to fund a suicide prevention strategy to tackle what he calls a “terrible trend of aboriginal youth suicide.”

Del Graff says the plan must be led by communities and recognize aboriginal values and cultural practices.

The ideas are among 12 recommendations listed in a report released by Graff.

It looks at the lives of seven aboriginal teens who were involved with social services and killed themselves between June 2013 and December 2014.

It says the teens all experienced early childhood trauma from exposure to domestic violence, parental addictions or parental mental-health issues.

Graff says it’s time for change and action.

“It cannot be denied that a troubling picture has taken shape when it comes to aboriginal youth,” Graff writes in the report.

“It is my heartfelt hope that this report spurs governments, communities and community leaders to think differently about aboriginal youth suicide and take decisive action to address it.”

Earlier this month, a state of emergency was declared on the remote Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario after a spate of suicide attempts.

The Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Manitoba, known as Cross Lake, also declared a state of emergency in March. Its chief has said 100 children are on a suicide watch list on the reserve.

Graff’s report says aboriginal youths are five to six times more likely to be affected by suicide than the general population.

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