First Nations Advisory Council report to the Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review14 September 2021
ST. MARY’S FIRST NATION (GNB) – The First Nations Advisory Council to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review has released a report entitled No Child Left Behind (Katop Wasis Sesomiw Nokalawin (Wolastoqey) / Mo Nagelameg Neoteetjit Mitjoaatjitj (Mi’gmaq)).
The report includes 13 calls to action by the council aimed at addressing challenges faced by Indigenous children and youth and shortcomings in the provision of mental health services.
The report also supports the advocate’s call for a more comprehensive review to identify gaps in mental health services for Indigenous youth.
“Mental health issues among Indigenous peoples are among the most severe of any group and the suicide rates are three times higher than among non-Indigenous groups, with even higher rates within the 15- to 24-year-old Indigenous youth group,” said Roxanne Sappier, co-chair of the First Nations Advisory Council and director of health for the Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation. “We need to adapt the approach to suicide prevention to include culturally relevant services and programs.”
One call to action is for Mi’gmaq, Peskotomuhkati and Wolastoqey languages to be formally recognized and supported by provincial legislation, and that Indigenous culture be an important factor in providing mental wellness, health and addiction services for Indigenous youth.
Several calls to action concern the need for more collaboration with provincial and federal governments; more transparency on federal funding administered by the provincial government; and more Indigenous leadership in the province’s allocation of mental health spending as it relates to Indigenous children and youth.
“One life lost to suicide is one life too many,” said Graydon Nicholas, co-chair of the Stakeholders Advisory Council. “Our nations need a path to wellness and healing by creating partnerships involving Indigenous leaders, directors, organizations and provincial and federal governments to improve mental health service delivery for our youth.”
A Sacred Fire was lit by elder Ed Perley during a sunrise ceremony at 6 a.m. It will burn for two days to provide healing for those who have lost a youth to suicide or are helping youth or dealing with mental health concerns. It is also in support of the Child and Youth Advocate’s report, The Best We Have to Offer, which will be released on Wednesday.