Indigenous communities continue to suffer psychological trauma from lasting legacies of reservation schools and forced adoption to present day violations of native lands and cultural suppression. Today, native teens suffer from the highest rates of suicide in North America.
Our research aims to see how memory, isolation and disenfranchisement among native communities on reservations has translated into one of the highest rates of depression, suicide ideation and suicide among native teens. By identifying the collective of harms over-represented in native communities from early childhood, including poverty, prejudice and racism, and substance abuse, we will follow how hopelessness and depression start to grip native children by the time they are teenagers.
This research will attempt to identify the coping mechanisms of native teens and the services available to help them to build resilience. This resilience often relies and is based on cultural healing practices. We look at how these healing practices work to provide a collective support system for native teens and the challenges posed by current public health policy in meeting psychological demands for teens in foster care.
Our research is initially focusing on native communities in Canada and the United States. In Canada, the state has opened efforts to begin reconciliation for harms caused by for past abuses in what is widely recognised as cultural genocide. The recent history of Canada is looked at through the lens of reservation schools and the Sixties Scoop that forcibly separated children from their families and stripped them of their cultural identities. We work alongside native communities to see whether state-led reconciliation forms a legitimate part of the healing process and what is needed once these formal processes end. In both Canada and America, despite efforts to heal from the past Indigenous communities face homelessness and destruction of their ancestral lands due to extractive industries, compounding distress and trauma.
As our research expands, we will look at the approaches adopted by Aboriginal communities in Australia to combat depression and suicide ideation among Aboriginal teens. Much of our initial work will be through measuring the impact of cultural healing practices and prevention initiatives led by Aboriginal mental health workers on trans-generational trauma. We will be continuing to connect to partners in Guatemala and Chile who are working closely with Indigenous communities seeking healing for atrocities of the past and the continued threats of removal from native lands by the state.
Collectively, our research will collate comparative mental health approaches in different Indigenous contexts and create a collaborative cross-border platform for our partners to learn and collaborate on efforts to better understand historical trauma and mitigate its effects.