Sunday, September 25, 2011

Suicide epidemic

Did you know that Canadian teens are almost three times as likely to commit suicide as their American cousins?

I didn't either, until I read a four page feature on teen suicide in the Globe today. In a one line passing mention, the writer notes that this statistic is due to the high rate of suicide among Canada's native population. Nowhere else in four pages do you find any reference to the only conceivable aspect of this story that is newsworthy. In fact, absent the Indian teens, Canada's teen suicide rate is among the lowest in the developed world.

So you write a four page story and miss the story. Yes, there is a suicide epidemic, but it's not among the nice middle class families we meet in the article.  To be sure, every suicide is a tragedy, and it's every bit as tragic when it happens in a white suburb as on an Indian reservation. But the epidemic is happening among our native population, not in the suburbs.

In doing a little research, I unearthed a couple of other interesting stats. While native teens in Canada are six to eight times more likely to kill themselves as non-native teens, the comparable figure in the USA is that American native teens are only twice as likely to kill themselves as non-native American teens.

Now that's a head-scratcher. Until the white folks brought enlightenment and progress to the New World, there was no 49th parallel, no Canada, no USA. Until the white folks created the border, the original inhabitants moved about without hindrance. All the First Nations, north or south of that border, suffered the same genocidal campaign of dispossession and disenfranchisement at the hands of the occupiers.

So why is a First Nations teenager in Canada at exponentially greater risk of suicide than his counterpart in the USA?

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