Suicide

Suicide and the Individual

So my last post was in response to an article that I read in the Globe and Mail on Teen Suicide. This post is a bit of an elaboration on the same subject but less specific: suicide, not teen suicide.

In my last post, I ended it with the following words:

It makes me upset that people keep blaming individuals in society. In my opinion, the problem is the institutions within society. Isn’t it after all that the institutions influence individuals? I think so.

And yes, it does make me upset that people always blame the individuals in society for suicide. I never read or hear about people “blaming institutions.” What do I mean by this? Well, I believe individuals are tied to institutions but those institutions are the same items in society that withhold individuals from embarking on their greatest potential.

But, heck, what does THAT even mean?

A couple basic examples of institutions include family, marriage, religion/church, government, schools. If there is too much of an institutional influence on an individual then what are they without the institution? Perhaps nothing more than just a thing. Society teaches individuals that they must have a family… a marriage…be in school… in order to amount to anything or at least live a meaningful life. I beg to differ. I can exist without a family. In fact, a lot of people can exist without a family but what if in one’s life everything around them is telling them that they must love their parents, must love their siblings, must love their cousins… blah blah blah. What if those “institutions” are the very thing that is “sick” instead of the individual? Yes, that is right I said it. School can be broken. Marriage can be broken. Even family can be broken.

Too much of an institution that is sick or broken can make someone feel less of the potential person that they can be. If potential cannot be reached, how can an individual continue to exist? If a person cannot amount to their full potential, then what are they, even if the very institutions that exist within their lives are the same things that are preventing them from being the best “thing” that they can be?

Take for instance, school and teen suicide. There is always the theme of bullying or lack of acceptance or isolation that occurs within the teen who choose to take their own life. School is sick. Not the individual.

What about the teen who, my heart goes out to, choose to take their own life because of family life at home AND at school? Both institutions prevented them from reaching their own potential.

But what is potential?

Potential is being able to be their own self without having to be ridiculed, isolated, bullied, etc. etc. within these institutions.

School creates isolation. Marriage creates isolation. Families create isolation. Governments create isolation. When someone is isolated from the very things that society tells them they must have, then what is the person left with? Feelings of not being accepted, not being embraced, not being loved.

So how do we get rid of these feelings of isolation? Create acceptance. Create love. Create nurturing environments.

I am sick and tired of reading about suicide and other individuals blaming the individual. The suicidal individual may not be the one who is sick; it may be the very institution in which one exists that is sick.

That is all.

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World Suicide Prevention Day

I previously posted today about a book that I just recently finished. This book really hit home for me because I could relate. In a dark way, I had attempted suicide just like the author. On a lighter side, I used to hope for love. Again, just like the author.

Today, I decided to write a poem. Poems really work for me. I never really paid much attention to them until I realized that I could get how I felt out on paper. Even if nobody understood what I was trying to say or even if nobody read them, it just felt good.

Also I write this poem because of World Suicide Prevention Day that occurred this weekend. I thought about going to this but then I didn’t think it was really all that constructive for me. This being that I still missed my those close to me who died because of suicide. I probably should have went. I maybe could have met some people who were in similar situations but gathered positive support. Anyways, I wrote this poem in also memory of a medicine man whom I met right after my first attempted suicide. He has passed and I sometimes miss him.

I write this poem because of what the medicine man said to me after I visited with him. He told me that people who die by suicide are left in limbo. I had no idea what limbo meant. I was thinking he meant the cool party game and was thinking “What the!?! What is this man saying talking about limbo.” I asked my mom after I met with him what limbo was because, I added, that’s where Adam told me I would have went. She told me it was a dark place here on earth. Neither heaven or hell. I didn’t believe in either heaven or hell to begin with but all of a sudden I knew what this medicine man was talking about and it wasn’t a cool party game anymore.

Here is the poem I wrote today after collecting my thoughts over the course of reading the book by Yvonne Johnson and reflecting on her experiences and my own.

Please note, this is not a cry for help this just a way to express what was given to me: what I thought death was and what I was taught where suicide would put me. I understand that each person has their own opinions and views, this is just a way for me to share what I was taught. To those that I lost to suicide or self-inflicted deaths, I pray that they are not stuck in “limbo” like the medicine man had said. I pray that they are in a better place.

If you feel suicidal or have thoughts of harming yourself or wanting to die, please call your local distress line, suicide prevention lifeline, or kids help phone.

Suicide

My heart bleeds red
My tears run dry
The pain is real
I just want to die
I pray to the Creator
to take me in my own sleep
Right in my own bed
To wake up in heaven
just like my friend
I wonder what people will say
When I wake up dead
My message to them:
Don’t be angry
Don’t wonder why
My pain will be gone
Just like my friend
Then I met Him.
He told me,
I will be gone but
I will be wandering
Right beside my friend
My heart will not bleed but
I won’t have to hide
There will be no heaven
No creator by my side
Each time it rains
My tears will not run dry
Here on earth
Wandering all alone
Right beside my friend
Nobody will see me
And my pain won’t be gone
My pain will live on through
My family and friends
My own pain, my own death,
My suicide.

Again, If you feel suicidal or have thoughts of harming yourself or wanting to die, please call your local distress line, suicide prevention lifeline, or kids help phone.

How did I do it?

The title for this post is a question that I have been asked on repeated occasions, especially within the past two weeks.

The question is relating to me having a desire to live, and not wanting to party anymore (and by not party anymore, I mean days on end partying and essentially doing this on the daily), and not wanting to do drugs and to just essentially get better. Of course my desire to change came well before this post and well before going into university, but real change and its progress happened with these key events.

I wouldn’t say that there is only one thing that made me want to change, or that there is a magic pill or potion out there. There was an array of factors, events, happenings in my life that made me want to change. And by change, I don’t mean over night and I don’t mean the easiest change either.

Part of this change started when I was at the hospital, after a suicide attempt, and I saw an old friend there. I tried to avoid her because I felt embarrassed. A week later, I found out she was there for the same thing, attempted suicide, but I only found out after she hung herself and her funeral was being arranged. It hurt me because I didn’t say “Hi” and it scared me because I thought, “That could have been me.” I decided right then and there, I wanted to live.

I still struggled with thoughts of not wanting to die, but wanting to escape pain. That’s what strange about me and my attempts, I never really wanted to die; I just wanted my pain to stop. Someone might consider me weak for taking that route, but I don’t think I am weak given my experiences and the fact that I am still here.

I then went onto to really look at the people I chose to let into my life. I began to change my friends completely. I literally changed my number, and stopped talking to people I didn’t think were necessarily good for the changes I wanted to make. And someone might think “well, that is rude thing to do.” No, it’s not rude, especially when certain types of people are toxic. (ugh, toxic… what an ugly word to use).

But even that, wasn’t all. I had an academic counsellor ask me “What do you want to do when you are done school.” My answer literally was nothing. I got into university, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with it when I was done. So I started setting goals for myself, and I started telling people about them when they asked me, “So what is it that you want to do when you are done school?” I proudly tell them what my dreams are. Trust me, the most inexpensive way to make yourself feel better about life is to have dreams and share your dreams with others (And also let others share their own dreams with you too!)

I also decided I wanted to eat healthy and start exercising again. Two things that naturally can make anyone feel good.

But that is not even everything that contributes to my desire to live. The number one major change in my life is this little fella.

Now, I am not saying go out and ask your sister or brother or someone else close to you to go and have a baby. I am just saying, find someone who you love dearly, and just think for a second, what their life would be like if they didn’t have you. I thought about my nephew many times, especially when I thought about how much I wanted my pain to end. I thought about how I wouldn’t see him walk, or how I wouldn’t hear him say my name (or his attempts to say my name…Auntie Momi, Auntie Nomi, Auntie Noni) or thought how he wouldn’t be able to make me smile by just being him.

I thought about how if I wasn’t there, he would only hear stories about me doing silly things and he would only see pictures of me doing even sillier things. I wouldn’t be able to be silly for him, or I wouldn’t be able to make him smile and laugh.

We wouldn’t be able to make our own memories of each other together.

So in a nutshell, I decided who I wanted to keep in my life (people who weren’t “toxic”); decided to have dreams and share those dreams whenever I can (and let other people share their own dreams with me, and really listen to what they are saying); decided I wanted to live healthy and be healthy; and most importantly, decided I wanted to be there in the future of my new nephew.

Some advice to people who want to change their lives: Find people who are good for you and your life; dream and dream big; and find someone you love and think about what his/her future would be like without the good person that you want to be, then ask yourself: How do you want to be remembered?

My experiences at The University of Western Ontario

Note: Please keep in mind the nature of this blog…Experiences of an Aboriginal Female in Canadian Society. I write from my point of view, and I still realize that there are other groups that still face troubles. I do not make an effort to say that I have it worse off or that I deserve better treatment. I just write about my experiences.

First, my experiences at The University of Western Ontario have been great. I have been involved and wanting to be even more involved. I have met great people, both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal. I have met some great people who are/were on Social Science Students Council. I met some great friends in class. I also met some great people through volunteering at various events and with various committees around the school. These experiences and these people, along with the understanding and supportive professors, are what make my UWO experience enjoyable.

Second, below is an article that was sent to me by another student at UWO. This article made me sick to my stomach. This article reminded me of this one incident class. In this incident in class, we were talking about Human Rights and if we should be concerned about Human Rights or lack thereof in other countries, those outside of North America. This made my stomach turn because of what some of my peers were saying. I then raised my hand and I asked the class:

Why do we care about Human Rights issues/violations in other countries when we have Human Rights violations here in Canada? Like that of lack of clean water, or education not available to everyone.

I paid special attention to make sure this discussion in class did not go into the direction I was afraid it might go into: First Nations issues. I made sure that I never mentioned First Nations, Aboriginal, or Indians or any reference to this group. I did this because the issues that surround First Nations are complex. Nevertheless, the discussion went from Human Rights in Canada, to clean water, to First Nations. Someone responded to my question or concern with this statement:

….We should not be giving the Chiefs hand outs….

My stomach literally turned over in class. I wanted to respond but I knew if I were to respond, the “right” thing would not come out. I didn’t respond to that comment. What I did I wish I had said was this: That Chiefs of each First Nation don’t get the “money” directly. The money actually goes through layers of organizations before it ever reaches the citizens of Canada that actually need it: the members of First Nations (excluding Chief and councils).

I did not say that. I wish I did. Rather, I just say there in my seat, quiet, anxious, wanting to bolt. After class was let out, I cried. I didn’t know how to handle this. I was angry. If it weren’t for Indigenous Services and the people there that day, I don’t know what would have happened? A panic attack? I don’t know I can’t predict what would have or could have happened and I don’t think I want to now.

When I read this article that was forwarded to me, the same feelings went through me. These feelings existed because literally the same thing was being read, when it was said in class, but this was written AND published in the school newspaper. Here is the article:

UWO Gazette Article Dated November 2005UWO article. To see the direct link to this article click Here.

I know everyone has a right to their own opinion. I do not deny anyone’s opinion in any situation. However, it amazes me that some people who attend such a well-known university, can actually be thought of as “higher learners” when things like this are said. I know these statements are filled with ignorance, in other words lack of education. So what is the solution? I am not sure. I do know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests putting the REAL Canadian history in school curriculums.

I emphasize this: Not all Aboriginals choose to live and stay on reserve–if they do want to leave some of them don’t even have the resources to leave. Like I said before, the issues that surround First Nations people, are very complex.

But to read this article dated 2005, and to be in class in 2011, there seems to be no change in thought from two very different students. The only thing that alarms me is that, one opinion was actually published! That is what concerns me most.

It makes you wonder why and where people get the idea that Aboriginals get everything for free or that we have it better off, or that we can just get up and leave our reserves (reserves that were created in an effort to “get rid of the Native problem”).

Finally, here are some present statistics about the current state of Aboriginals in Canada:

  • 2010: Infant mortality rate amongst Canadians 5.3 live births per 1000 versus 19 live births per 1000 amongst Aboriginals
  • Number 1 cause of death of Aboriginals between ages 1 and 44: Suicide
  • Suicide rate amongst Aboriginal youth is 5 to 6 times higher
  • 98% of residential school survivors have a mental illness
  • Rates of suicide in Aboriginal communities where no protective factors (Control over land/Band controlled schools/Cultural facilities/Control over health care, fire, police) are present: 137.5 per 100,000 (where the national average is 14 per 100,000)

These statistics are not from the 1960s or the 1970s. These numbers are from 2009 onwards.

It makes you wonder why this group experiences these situations at a much higher rate when compared to the rest of a country, a country that is supposed to be credited with its level of equality, human rights, justice…. Well, it may not make you wonder but it makes me wonder. To read a different viewpoint on this issue of Aboriginals, check out my post titled, It’s Not All About You.

In the end, I hope that one day people can stop making ignorant statements against Aboriginals, and other marginalized groups as well. I plan to work towards this equality and educating non-Aboriginals about situations that Aboriginals still face today in present-day Canada.

One day.

You can read other posts I have written about Aboriginal youth, Suicide amongst Aboriginals, and another post concerning The Gazette by clicking on the tags below.

Suicide

A conversation I had with my counselor.

Me: I want the pain to go away.
Counselor: What do mean?
Me: I would like it all to go away.
Counselor: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much do you want the pain to go away?
Me: 10.
Counselor: How would you make that happen?
Me: I would take lots of pills.
Counselor: What kind of pills do you have at home.
Me: I only have advil, but I know that won’t work.
Counselor: That is sad you know that won’t work.

That is sad… that I know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to suicide.

This is a conversation I had with my counselor. I was talking about suicide. A girl said to me once: I am jealous how much you smile…. If she only knew, how much I want the pain to go away…sometimes. To smile, is to just make the pain go away. For a second.

Note to reader: I don’t write this because I want people to feel sorry for me. That is the last thing I want. I write this because I just want to be open and honest. This is what I struggle with. Pain. I know everyone has their own battles. I am not trying to say: “boo hoo look at me and my problems” or “boo hoo I have bigger problems than you.” I know some people have it worse more than me. I am just writing about what I deal with and what a lot of Aboriginal youth deal with….

Just another statistic

So Chris Bentley spoke at TedxUWO this past weekend and not too long ago Phil Fontaine spoke at UWO. Both mentioned suicide amongst Aboriginal youth. I wonder when the last time they actually spoke to Aboriginal youth, one on one, and found out what they wanted? Or asked them what the youth thought? Or even asked the youth what they could do to help the youth? Or were these speeches and mentioning of Aboriginal youth and suicide rates just another adult reading numbers prepared by statscan?

Maybe Phil Fontaine may have spoken with Aboriginal youth and suicide survivors but what about Mr. Bentley?

Nevertheless, When was the last time both of them asked a youth: what is working for you (and what isn’t)? Anyone can read a report and speak about, but to reach out to the real people you talk about makes a real difference.

Just a little late night thought.

I got a beef to pick with you!

I have a beef to pick with the rest of the world.

Everyone keeps talking Aboriginal youth, like as if we are not here. Like as if we are not listening. Like as if we don’t know what is going on.

Talk TO us, not ABOUT us…Better yet, LISTEN to us!

When I say Aboriginal youth, I don’t mean just Aboriginal person confined to a certain age group, I mean anyone who is Aboriginal and who has been affected by issues that continue to affect Aboriginals, generation after generation.

Isn’t said to be that Aboriginal problems are inter-generational as effects from the Residential School system? Then, why is it that Aboriginal youth are not included in the healing process? I keep hearing our Aboriginal leaders talking about what is wrong with Aboriginal youth (Didn’t you say we have the highest suicide rates than any other group within Canada!)

Thanks for that memo!

As a survivor of a few failed suicide attempts, I can remember the very first time I thought about death. It was grade 3. What the hell? What is causing an Aboriginal child to be thinking about death in grade 3? I remember praying to the Creator to take me in my sleep. I remember writing to the Creator, and asking him how come he couldn’t “hear me and my wish to die.” My first real attempt was when I was 13 years old. I ended up in ICU. Then, my last suicide attempt was when I was 21 years old. I ended up in the cardiovascular wing of the local hospital. That was not too long ago, given that I am 24 years old. I either suck at death, or I am destined to do greater things. I am going to go with the latter.

Today, I am receiving the help that I need today. I am talking with someone. I have developed safety plans. I have removed myself from negative life situations. Things that I had to learn how to do, and things that I had to figure out over and over again to see which safety plan was best for me. Trial and error.

Nevertheless, everyone keeps talking about Aboriginal youth, like we are not here! I am sick and tired of it. I am standing up, starting today! This is also why I started this blog.

Hello world, Aboriginal youth are here, alive, and we are listening. I am meeting Aboriginal youth who are just like me in the sense that they want to change, are making change, who have changed and are remaining positive. So, why is it that we are just talked about like another number amongst other rates and statistics?

Talk TO us, not ABOUT us…Better yet, LISTEN to us!

Suicide Rates & Aboriginals

Today I was at school and I was discussing essays with another student who is in the same class as me.

She choose to write on cultural relevancy and Aboriginal suicide rates. The statistics are that Aboriginals have the highest suicide rates, and the youngest death rates in Canada. To sort of sum what my classmate said: If culture is incorporated into the healing process that Aboriginal suicide rates will be reduced. She also added,

It’s common sense.

Too bad it wasn’t that easy. Common sense. Oh wait, it is that easy. People just fail to listen to what Aboriginal youth are saying. This classmate of mine is also Aboriginal and female.

In the end, I was excited to hear about her essay because I wrote my essay on the same topic…Except I said:

The lack of a cultural identity is associated with high suicide rates amongst Aboriginal youth.

The same thing except just opposite variables.

I can’t wait to hear about her outcome in her essay.

Read one of my earlier posts about my essay titled Suicide.

People Don’t Listen Enough

Listening in on TEDxUWO live stream today, I was able to listen to Chris Bentley speak on some of the issues facing First Nations today in Canada.

I was very happy that he was able to speak about this, yet disappointed to read some of the comments coming in under the livestream feed. One comment had said:

We are still blaming residential school policies? That was years ago.

What some people don’t understand is that the problems that were created because of Residential schools, are inter-generational. What does that mean? That means they are passed down from one generation to the next. What does this mean for young people? They have nobody telling them, what is happening to you, is not your fault.

Just recently, I started to get help for some of the things that I experienced in my life. Some of these things made me angry for a long time. I didn’t know how to handle this anger and I didn’t know why I was angry. I remember one of the things my mom told me growing up was, “Depression is unresolved anger.”

The first time I tried to commit suicide, I remember the doctor asking, “What’s wrong? What happened?” I told him, “I am angry. I don’t know what to do.” I know one thing for sure is that I never really wanted to actually die, I just wanted to escape my pain. I was angry because I was hurt, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.

This doctor didn’t listen to me. He just said, “You can’t be angry. People who are angry, don’t do what you did. You must be sad.”

I was even more angry. I couldn’t channel this anger anywhere but further inside me. I was angry because nobody was listening to me. Everyone around me kept telling me what was wrong with me, how I should be feeling, and what I was thinking. I just wished the people I was talking to actually listened to what I was saying.

I believe that people don’t listen enough. Everyone keeps talking about what needs to be done, what has to happen, but nobody listens to the people that they want to help. If you want real change to happen: Listen to what those people are saying. If you want to really help someone today, listen to what they are telling you. There can be a lot more done when you listen. Wanting to be part of change, involves listening to those you want to help.

3rd World Canada

Here is an article about a movie called THIRD WORLD CANADA!

Please read the article.

I am both excited and not excited about this movie. Excited to see that the conditions in which Aboriginals live in within Canada are being accurately displayed. Not excited about the circumstances surrounding the movie. Some people say, “that’s life!” Well, we NEED to change it.

Life should not be like this for anyone in a country that forced people to live in these conditions many years ago.

I remember I went to a healing circle here in London ON and heard a relative of my Uncle Max (imu RIP) say, “Natives were supposed to be extinct the year 2000” — among many other eye-opening things he said!

How would you feel to be apart of race that wasn’t supposed to be here for the past ten years?

For me, as an Aboriginal myself, I am not sure how to feel. Angry, sad, confused, lost, hurt. Not sure.