AFN Stands with First Nations Youth on World Suicide Prevention Day

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA, Sept. 9, 2016 /CNW/ – In advance of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde reaffirmed the AFN’s commitment to advocacy and action to ensure that the root causes of suicide are addressed in ways that promote mental wellness and success.

“Our young people are leading the way to ensure their colleagues and peers have all the support and encouragement they need to succeed,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Suicide is a tragic epidemic among our people and we must act to promote life, hope and opportunity.  We all have a role to play – individuals, families and governments – to ensure everyone has access to prevention, health and wellness supports.”

The AFN National Youth Council (NYC) has announced twelve Calls to Action on life promotion in First Nations communities calling for dignity, respect, human rights, justice, and equitable access to resources for all First Nations communities. The Calls to Action emerged from local and regional consultations led by youth, a roundtable with federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott, and months of community consultation.

“As First Nation people in Canada, we not only fight for recognition and reconciliation, but we will fight for the lives of those that have somehow lost hope and strength to stand – the lives of our youth matter to our Chiefs,” said Assembly of First Nations Ontario RegionalChief Isadore Day, responsible for AFN’s national health portfolio. “We accept the responsibility to uphold the 12 Calls for Action put forward by our young people.”

These Calls to Action urge the Canadian government to take immediate action to address growing inequities in education, employment, income, and healthy living environments, and for adequate and sustainable funding be provided to ensure that a comprehensive range of culturally safe, prevention, health promotion, and mental health treatment services are made available to all First Nations communities.

AFN Youth Council Co-Chairs Jennifer O’Bomsawin and Andre Bear made the following statement: “We call on the Canadian government to create meaningful opportunities for youth to take action on issues of importance to them. To support young people in strengthening their cultural identities, to reestablish relationships of equality and respect with First Nations communities, and to pay attention to what is already working well in First Nations communities and amplify stories of hope and success. We have a shared desire to tilt the conversation about suicide prevention towards affirmation of life, strength, culture, resilience, purpose, meaning, connection and hope.”

The AFN National Youth Council’s Calls to Action on life promotion in First Nations communities can be found here:

As recognized by the World Health Organization, World Suicide Prevention Day promotes global commitment and action to prevent suicide, raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. This year’s theme is “Connect, communicate, care”.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

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