"They observed that whilst some indigenous communities had suicide rates nearly 800 times the national average, others had no suicides at all. They also found a strong correlation between ‘cultural continuity’ factors and the incidence of suicide. Indigenous communities that have control over local institutions and are grounded in a collective sense of history and culture have the low rates of suicide or no suicides at all."
Dr Joe Solanto talk quotes
"Intergenerational healing can also act as a ripple effect. How does this take place?
We can see that in various families and in various communities and across the land, as healing happens it builds a momentum. It is also contagious. If trauma is contagious, healing is contagious.
And so what is happening is that this healing, whatever form it is taking, is starting to spread as people increasingly take their individual or collective journey. And what they are doing is they are breaking the silence.
They’re talking about the history in a more accurate way, so that people are hearing not just the stories of defeat and failure, but the histories of wisdom and sacredness and wholeness and balance.
They’re also reviving their traditions. They are recognising that the soul that has been wounded needs the spiritual healing…"
“And so when we look across the land and we see in the communities where these are the factors that are emerging they have very low or no problems with youth suicide, for example.
There are places around Canada where communities have done this sort of rebuilding and resurrecting themselves and the kids are getting the message that life is worth living, that the future has promise for me.
They see role models in their community and visible evidence of a possibility for themselves that can get them through that stormy angry period of adolescence so that they can hold on for that hopeful future.”
Reducing suicide by connecting to culture
Suicide amongst indigenous Australians was almost non-existent a generation ago. (“When the first suicide occurred we didn’t have a word for it. In the Arnhem they had to find a new word for it.” Elder David Cole).
However, today it is at one of the highest levels in the world. The problem, which is particularly prevalent amongst males aged 10 - 24 years old, continues to get worse in many indigenous communities.
The destruction of indigenous culture by the colonisation process has played a key role in this youth suicide. Becoming disconnection from one’s culture can eradicate a person’s sense of self (or identity), their self-worth and their emotional wellbeing. They cannot function from their own cultural relatedness, or from the culture of the colonisers.
Loss of culture can attack at the very heart of who a person is. They feel they have no ownership of their past and no control of their future. They become a non-person.
In Australia, the recent Elders Report on self-harm and youth suicide stressed that the government’s top-down approach is not working.
Elders from around Australia argue for: 1) indigenous people to be connected to their culture, and 2) a community-led approach to healing. They say that access to traditional knowledge and culture strengthens a positive sense of identity, and provides young people a cultural foundation that “helps protect them from feelings of hopelessness, isolation and being lost between two worlds.”
These arguments are strongly supported by seminal research by Professor Michael Chandler and colleagues with over 200 indigenous communities in British Columbia, Canada. They observed that whilst some indigenous communities had suicide rates nearly 800 times the national average, others had no suicides at all.
They also found a strong correlation between ‘cultural continuity’ factors and the incidence of suicide. Indigenous communities that have control over local institutions and are grounded in a collective sense of history and culture have the low rates of suicide or no suicides at all.
In 2013, the First Nations Health Authority took over responsibility for the delivery of health services to First Nations in British Columbia in order to provide these nations with greater control over the design and delivery of health programs.