Aboriginal youth suicide sign of life on reserve

Jasmine Kabatayjasminekabatay
Art Director

All I see are issues and problems and not a lot of resolving.

My whole life I’ve known that Aboriginal people have been prone to a lot of things. Missing and murdered women, poor living conditions, drug problems, and most recently, suicide in Aboriginal youth.

Recently, a reserve in Northern Ontario went into a state of emergency after four suicides since January.

This reserve, Onigaming First Nation, is only a couple hours away from my own reserve.  I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

Growing up in a reserve I’ve seen it all. I’m not saying it’s the worst place you could live, but it isn’t the easiest place to live either. I’ve experienced more deaths than I can deal with, and I know that during my time there my mental health wasn’t very good, either.

I went home for the summer and for at least a month I did absolutely nothing and was miserable the whole time I was there. I would see my high school friends, I would try to be around people as much as possible, but I just wasn’t happy.

According to Health Canada, “30 per cent of First Nations people have felt sad, blue or depressed for two or more weeks,” and “First Nations youth commit suicide about five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth.”

It’s also known that suicides are the leading cause of death in First Nations youth and adults.

This isn’t the first time that a reserve has been in a state of emergency because of suicides. Neskantaga First Nation declared a state of emergency after two suicides in less than a week, and 20 suicide attempts in 2013. The death toll came to a total of seven people.

People aren’t happy. From what I’ve seen just being home for a few months, there’s a prescription pill problem happening in my own community.

Coming back and seeing people I’ve grown up around spending their money for a useless high, and seeing some of the severe health risks that have come from use of this drug, it is clear that there is a problem.

When I go home I do my best to be with youth and keep them positive, even though I know I’m not always the happiest person they’ll see. I don’t want to see these kids growing up and thinking that the reserve is the only place they’ll live because it isn’t. So many people don’t want to leave and that is understandable, because it’s home and it’s all they’ve ever known.

There’s also the other side of the spectrum, where they don’t know how to leave and get out. There are people that haven’t graduated high school, or have had children at a very young age, and feel like they’re stuck or don’t know how to move forward.

I bring my positivity when I’m home, and I can see it working on the people I talk to. I give them advice if I’m asked how I got out, and help them however I can.

They laugh, they smile, and they enjoy my company. I know I can’t change everything or eliminate this issue, but I try my best to help the people that want my help.