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

Tofino and Ucluelet’s Top 10 sports and arts stories of 2019

Revisiting the Coast’s best sports and arts newsmakers of the past year.

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

Most Read