Every single year in Canada, one-third of all deaths among Indigenous youth are due to suicide. Studies indicate youth between the ages of ten and nineteen, living on reserve, are five to six times more likely to commit suicide than their peers in the rest of the population. Suicide is a new behaviour for First Nations people. There is no record of any suicide epidemics prior to the establishment of the 130 residential schools across Canada.
Bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga argues that the aftershocks of cultural genocide have resulted in a disturbing rise in youth suicides in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. She examinees the tragic reality of children feeling so hopeless they want to die, of kids perishing in clusters, forming suicide pacts, or becoming romanced by the notion of dying — a phenomenon that experts call “suicidal ideation.” She also looks at the rising global crisis, as evidenced by the high suicide rates among the Inuit of Greenland and Aboriginal youth in Australia. Finally, she documents suicide prevention strategies in Nunavut, Seabird Island, and Greenland; Facebook’s development of AI software to actively link kids in crisis with mental health providers; and the push by First Nations leadership in Northern Ontario for a new national health strategy that could ultimately lead communities towards healing from the pain of suicide.
Based on her Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series, Tanya Talaga’s 2018 Massey Lectures is a powerful call for action and justice for Indigenous communities and youth.
About the Author:
Tanya Talaga is the acclaimed author of Seven Fallen Feathers, which was the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize and the BC National Award for Nonfiction, CBC’s Nonfiction Book of the Year, a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, and a national bestseller. Talaga has been a journalist at the Toronto Star for twenty years, covering everything from general city news to education, national healthcare, foreign news, and Indigenous affairs. She has been nominated five times for the Michener Award in public service journalism, and she is the 2017–2018 Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy. Talaga is of Polish and Indigenous descent. Her great-grandmother, Liz Gauthier, was a residential school survivor. Her great-grandfather, Russell Bowen, was an Ojibwe trapper and labourer. Her grandmother is a member of Fort William First Nation. Her mother was raised in Raith and Graham, Ontario. Talaga lives in Toronto with her two teenage children.