Shannon McDonald, deputy chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority, and B.C Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe discuss ways to improve services to Indigenous youth at risk. (Black Press)

Indigenous youth deaths preventable, B.C. coroner says

Trauma, mental illness, drugs and alcohol major factors

Indigenous young people die unexpectedly at almost twice the rate of the general youth population, a new report finds.

The report, released Wednesday by the First Nations Health Authority and the B.C. Coroners Service, says the causes of death are similar, except for suicides, where Indigenous youth between 15 and 24 are at much greater risk. Alcohol, substance abuse or impairment was a factor in half of all unexpected First Nations youth deaths.

“The findings that many of these youth had interaction with supporting systems of care shows that we as providers all have much more work to do to offer the care these youth need, when asked,” said Shannon McDonald, the health authority’s deputy chief medical officer.

The panel found that suicide accounted for one-third of unexpected deaths among First Nations, homicide accounted for five per cent and accidental deaths (car crashes, overdoses, drownings and fire) accounted for 60 per cent.

Of those youth who committed suicide, 20 per cent had a psychiatric diagnoses and 20 per cent were receiving support services for mental health issues at the time of their deaths.

The difference between suicide rates for First Nations and non-First Nations was significant. The gap was particular high for the Fraser Health Authority; 81.3 per 100,000 for First Nations and seven for non-First Nations.

Overall, one-quarter of First Nations youth who died had identified mental health concerns. However, only half of those were receiving treatment.

The report found that nine-tenths of Aboriginal youth who were engaged in their communities and had access to Aboriginal elders or education workers reported had good mental health, compared to only half of those who weren’t engaged in their culture.

The report made recommendations in four areas to prevent deaths among young First Nations peoples: better connectedness to their culture, peers, family and community; reducing barriers and increasing access to services; promoting cultural safety, humility and trauma-informed care; and asking for feedback through community engagement.

The panel set out goals along each of the four areas to be achieved by the end of 2018.

Among those were to review alcohol education and further develop alcohol-specific First Nations harm reduction.

Alcohol alone was a factor in 64 per cent of all First Nations car crashes; 26 per cent higher than their non-First Nations peers. Of the drivers involved in those crashes, 33 per cent were intoxicated.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation asks Tofino businesses for support as emergency funding runs dry

“We need to pay for the work they do. It’s such important work.”

DFO says the five aggrieved B.C First Nations were consulted on fisheries plan

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations calls response ‘a sham,’ adding DFO never incorporates their views

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Canada can lead the way to save sharks from extinction, says fisheries expert

“Combined with fishing extraction numbers, sharks experience huge losses in the environment.”

Five Vancouver Island First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

More than $800,000 in suspected cocaine seized from ship near Victoria

RCMP Dive Team suspects more narcotics had been stored below ship’s waterline

Most Read