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.

Just Posted

Agassiz Community Health Centre welcomes its newest doctor

Nikki Cohen is one of three doctors practicing at the local health clinic

No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

The garden is still homeless after SD78 said no to the society using the McCaffrey School property

Life rings, signs to improve safety on Harrison waterfront

Harrison council approved $125,000 in aquatic safety projects for the beach

PHOTOS: Harrison students take on the Bunny Run

Harrison Hot Springs Elementary students dressed up for the Easter event

No more mobile vendors on Harrison beach

The approval of an updated business licence bylaw means Nolan Irwin is without a cart

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison celebrate National Pet Day

From cats and dogs to lizards and chickens, residents showed off the animals that enrich their lives

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

Most Read