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Suffering in Silence: Self-Harm and Suicide Among Young Indigenous People

Britta Schmitz - Europa Newswire
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May 16, 2016

Dali Angel Zapotec, Co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (Mexico) during a Press conference on Indigenous Youth Overcoming the Challenges of Self-Harm and Suicide at the UN Headquarters in New York. (Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire)

Indigenous People suffer from disproportionately high suicide rates and rates of self-harm among young people.

“It is not an issue that is associated with just one part of the globe, it is all over,“ Joseph Goko Mutangah, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from Kenya, said at a press conference.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, established in the year 2000, urges to address the issue of suicide and self-harm among young indigenous people.

“I don’t understand how we have gotten to the point where we have all these structures, we have indigenous people included in the UN and we have governments that support our rights and our communities and we’re still struggling,“ Sarah Lynn Olayok Jancke, Arctic Focal Point to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus from Canada, said.

The young Inuit woman urged UN representatives to take a holistic approach when discussing the issue, as indigenous communities used to be holistic and inclusive societies.

“Every factor of your society, whether it’s lands, language, culture, spirituality, animals, those were all determining factors of who you were as a person and they are all interconnected. And now, where we are, there is a total disruption in all of those factors of who we are,“ Olayok Jancke said. “All of these factors are slowly eating away and creating intra-generational drama.“

Intra-generational dialogue seems to be an important part of the solution to the issue of suicide and self-harm. The elders of indigenous communities are the holders of cultural values, information, tradition and knowledge. They have to be empowered to teach their young generations about these values.

“The elders must work with the youth,“ Goko Mutangah said. “There is a disconnect between the current generation and the past generations. I talked to one of the young ladies just out there, she is from here, from Texas, and she tells me that there was a kind of information erasing when colonization came in. And because of that they feel like they are floating, they have no base where they can set their cultures and traditions.“

Read the rest at Europa Newswire

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