Essay on Suicide as a Way of Belonging

Published: 2021/11/22
Number of words: 1466


Suicidal thoughts and actions are deliberate attempts to take one’s own life. Suicidal ideation, self-inflicted harm, and suicide attempt all fall under this category. An estimated 12 Canadians per 100,000 commit suicide each year. Approximately 804,000 individuals died by suicide in 2012, making suicide a significant public health issue worldwide. The problem is exacerbated for marginalized groups such as youth and Indigenous people. For example, people between the ages of 15 and 29 are the ones who are vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. Indigenous adolescents (aged 15-24) commit suicide at a rate five to six times greater than that of non-Indigenous youth (aged 15-24) (White & Mushquash, 2016). These elevated rates can be found in both sexes, but they are more prevalent in men. Suicide rates among First Nation men were 126 per 100,000 in 2000 (compared to 24 per 100,000 non-Indigenous men), while suicide rates among First Nation women were 35 per 100,000. (compared to 5 per 100,000 non-Indigenous females) (Niezen, 2009).

How do the history and social circumstances affect the individual biographies of the First Nation People?

Indigenous Canadians are more likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to consider suicide. Suicide is viewed by about a quarter of First Nations people. According to Statistics Canada, 21% of First Nations men and 26% of First Nations women living off-reserve reported suicidal thoughts in 2012, compared to 11% of non-Indigenous males and 14% of non-Indigenous women who had similar ideas (Niezen, 2009). This also applies to Indigenous individuals living off-reserve. According to the Inuit Health Survey conducted in 2007–08, 29% of Inuit had attempted suicide, and 48% have seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives.

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The focus on individual hazards can obscure the underlying social and historical factors contributing to the higher suicide rates in some Canadian Indigenous communities. When someone commits suicide, it’s usually because they’re feeling suicidal in some way. There is no evidence to suggest that Indigenous Canadians have a higher rate of suicide than the rest of the country’s population. This is particularly true among Inuit, whose suicide rates have risen steadily since the 1980s despite historically low levels. As a result of these trends, we are compelled to explore for broader socioeconomic reasons, such as the colonial backdrop of putting Indigenous communities in reserves and settlements and government programs on education, social welfare, justice, and policing (White & Mushquash, 2016). Several administrations have made an effort to integrate Aboriginal people into Canadian society to eradicate them as a distinct ethnic group. Over the years, policies have been implemented that have weakened and, in some cases, wholly obliterated Aboriginal cultures and identities.

Indigenous peoples’ autonomy has been eroded due to colonial settlement, traditional knowledge, language, and lifestyles. People in some groups may be less likely to commit suicide if they maintain or restore their sense of self-worth, language, and culture. For example, the First Nations Regional Health Survey (FNRHS) revealed that those with an intermediate or fluent understanding of their Indigenous language had decreased suicidal ideation and attempts rates (White & Mushquash, 2016). In contrast, the cultural loss has resulted in historical trauma in families and communities that have been severely affected, affecting even younger generations who have not yet experienced similar upheavals. According to research conducted with these generations, psychological anguish and suicidal behavior are more common in the children and grandchildren of residential school survivors.

Experiencing trauma and losing loved ones and being exposed to suicide among friends and peers exacerbates grieving in families and communities and raises the suicide risk among youth even more. As a result of these past calamities and atrocities, many people still live in poverty and suffer from poor health. We know that socioeconomic status impacts people’s general health and well-being, including their risk of suicide. In comparison to the general population, Indigenous Canadians have lower educational accomplishment and income levels and more excellent rates of unemployment and food scarcity (Niezen, 2009). They also have less access to decent housing, and health care is more challenging to obtain. These imbalances can directly impact mental health by raising the incidence of disorders like diabetes and infectious diseases. According to the FNRHS, people with chronic medical conditions had greater rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. According to the study’s findings, those who had more stressful lives, such as low socioeconomic position or being the target of racism, were more likely to be moderately or very upset.

Culture continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada

The ability to preserve a culture’s traditions and carry them through into the future is referred to as cultural continuity. As the only empirical factor, culture continuity exuberates the importance of traditional Indigenous culture in shielding Canadian Indigenous people from contemporary health concerns. Indigenous youth have a higher level of hardiness or have characteristics associated with reduced suicide rates. A significant proportion of persons in the community who speak an Indigenous language counts as one of these “cultural continuity” characteristics that combat suicidal thoughts (White & Mushquash, 2016). As previously noted in the literature, other factors that increase resilience include: securing Indigenous title to traditional lands, attaining self-government, taking control of education and health care systems, and establishing cultural facilities for the preservation and enrichment of conventional lives.

Individual characteristics such as feeling connected to one’s parents and family, emotional well-being, academic success, and community involvement and connectivity have all been linked to a reduced risk of juvenile suicide (Niezen, 2009). Furthermore, reduced suicide rates have been linked to economic factors such as increased income and employment. In Inuit Nunangat, fewer people committed suicide when they were in school or working. Mental health services that are customized to the needs of Inuit’s are also proposed as protective factors against suicide. Suicide is a leading cause of death for Indigenous Peoples, Inuit, and Métis. To help combat this, some groups and organizations have developed programs, policies, and tactics.

Indigenous values, knowledge, strength, and resilience should be incorporated into prevention and intervention strategies. As a result, an increasing number of Indigenous adolescents prefer to speak about “life promotion,” which focuses on building youth strength and purpose instead of what they see as a deficit-based approach to suicide prevention (Niezen, 2009). However, many indigenous groups are developing suicide prevention programs that draw on global best practices while incorporating their unique customs and contexts, making them more in tune with Indigenous world views. These programs are gaining traction. Some examples of this type of programming are programs led by elders or knowledge keepers, programs incorporating ritual and cultural teachings, programs conducted in Indigenous languages, or programs held on the land (White & Mushquash, 2016). Even if one chooses to take a different approach, most professionals in this sector agree that initiatives must be evaluated to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is added and the best solutions are identified.

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The development of suicide prevention measures by Indigenous tribes is one of the most promising areas in suicide prevention, both globally and in Canada. The National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, designed by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, was one of the first national Canadian methods. Suicide prevention tactics have been shown to reduce suicide by advocating, focusing resources on priority regions, integrating services, and establishing accountability in suicide prevention programs (Niezen, 2009). Using Indigenous-led initiatives, we can make sure that we address the specific needs and values of the Indigenous people. Using these tactics, we can also guarantee a holistic approach, understanding the need to decrease risk and promote resilience throughout an individual’s life while addressing the broader social environment, establishing equity for all, and restoring community autonomy and cohesion.


Among the overall Canadian population, men aged 50 to 54 are at the highest risk of committing suicide, particularly if they suffer from despair, social exclusion, or a long list of medical issues. Suicidal people’s minds are examined in psychological autopsy to learn more about the hazards they face. High mental illness rates, such as depression, drug abuse that might lead to impulsive conduct, and recent stresses like loss can be found. These include alcohol misuse as well as depression. It takes a multi-level approach to address the suicide risks at these several levels and affect both people and the community. Investing in suicide prevention and mental health goes beyond traditional mental health services. To address suicide, Indigenous peoples must lead activities that target communities as well as individuals. This is especially important in light of past losses that have resulted in the loss of autonomy for many Indigenous communities.


Niezen, R. (2009). Suicide as a way of belonging: Causes and consequences of cluster suicides in Aboriginal communities. Available at SSRN 3075644.

White, J., & Mushquash, C. (2016). We Belong Life Promotion to Address Indigenous Suicide Discussion Paper. Thunderbird Partner Foundation.

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