Free educational resource helps teachers prevent youth suicide in First Nations

Suicide rates among First Nations youth are at least three times higher than among their non-Indigenous counterparts.
First Nations youth are at a higher risk of suicide than non-Indigenous youth. (YouTube)

It's a tragic statistic that people in Indigenous communities know all too well.

Suicide rates among First Nations youth are at least three times higher than among their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Now, a new online educational resource — the First Nations Youth Suicide Prevention Curriculum — aims to prevent youth suicide, and empower young people in First Nations to live long and healthy lives.

Georgina Island First Nation's Harvey McCue, co-director of the project, said the curriculum is aimed at kids between sixth and eighth grade. He told CBC's Up North that he chose that target based on his professional and personal experience.

"I've been in First Nations education basically my whole professional and non professional life, since 1969."

"During that time, like many other people, I came to recognize that suicide is a serious issue, particularly in First Nations communities."

"But all First Nation schools lack the instructional material to help teachers confront and address these very challenging issues," McCue said. 

He said the curriculum will allow teachers to address what he called a "vulnerable group" and help them not only understand the issues around suicide, but build resiliency and self-confidence to deal with suicide personally and collectively. 

The curriculum has been a long time coming, McCue said. 

In 2003 there was a report by the Advisory Group for Suicide Prevention, set up to address this in First was called 'Acting on What We Know' of the recommendations was more educational materials for First Nation schools.

"This was done in 2003. As far as I know, there hasn't been much, if any, educational material produced as a result of that report."

McCue then set to developing his own tools for teachers.

"I approached a number of principals and directors of education in several First Nations to see if they would agree to field test the curriculum, and we got two responses, one from Saskatchewan, and the elementary school at Long Lake #58 in northern Ontario."

Teachers implemented the curriculum over the winter, then provided feedback to McCue. 

"The feedback was terrific, there was very little tweaking as needed," he said. "We're very pleased. It helped us appreciate that we were on the right track. "

Teachers can find the curriculum by clicking on this link.