Youth have their say in special report

By Bryan Eneas
December 5, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: December 6, 2017 - 11:12am

Youth had an opportunity to weigh in and add their voices to a special report about suicide today.

A new report was brought about by six tragedies last year, which rocked multiple communities in northern Saskatchewan. It's the first study of its kind in the province, if not nationally according to Corey O'Soup, the advocate for children and youth.

“Our youth have finally spoken, in a way they've never spoken before,” O'Soup said during a press conference on Dec. 5 in La Ronge.

“We talk about youth and we talk about suicide, but rarely do we ever go and speak to them about it. When we brought that up, some of the professionals said to us 'if you talk to youth about suicide, they're going to do it.'”

O'Soup argued youth are already talking about suicide – just not to adults.

The special report sent staff to 12 communities around northern Saskatchewan to ask for input on how to end youth suicide in the province. From multiple discussions with young people in each community, staff were able to identify themes about why youth may commit suicide.

The themes include bullying, a lack of emotional support, substance misuse, a lack of physical safety, and activities. From the themes, calls to action were created, including some of O'Soup's own. 

“The youth calls to action were more personal for them, and more in their every day lives,” O'Soup said. “They're calling their parents to action, their teachers to action, their peers to action... I didn't feel that was my role or my responsibility.”

He said the youths' calls were more “on the ground” or “frontline” objectives. O'Soup focused on holding elected officials accountable by meeting with officials at all levels of government three to four times a year. He asked the provincial and federal governments to engage with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan to further support the creation of more suicide prevention plans.

O'Soup also called on the federal government to end the inequality in funding for Indigenous communities, while lobbying the provincial and federal governments to implement Jordan's Principle - measures to solve jurisdictional issues as it relates to the care of children - in full.

“There's so many recommendations out there on this topic. Our governments, both federal and provincial they have reports,” O'Soup said. “I felt it was time to make calls to action because the path is clear when it comes to what needs to be done.”

Elders helped guide O'Soup and the Child Advocate staff in their work.

“We need to listen more, to [youth] when they are speaking. Sometimes we don't listen to what they have to say; they are truly amazing,” Julie Pitzel an Elder who worked with the study, said. “Those young people, they hit my heart.”

Pitzel said youth presenting their ideas and concerns empowers them to make change within their own communities. She commended the staff of the special report because of their efforts to ensure young people were heard. She said staff visited communities multiple times to ensure concerns were properly and clearly portrayed in the final report.

“It's basically their words. That's what I like about [this report,]” she said. “I don't think they ever get an opportunity to do that, that much. That's what I find, anyway, when I work with young people.”

 

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On Twitter: @BryanEneas

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