CBC reports on an event held earlier in the month in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The Community Medicine Gathering was hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to bring educators, health workers, and adolescents together in response to a wave of youth suicides in First Nations communities. The keynote address was given by Darien Thira, whose psychological practice focuses on mental health and development consultancy for Indigenous populations in Canada.
Dr. Thira’s talk, which challenged how such suicides have been conceptualized in Canadian disciplinary psychology and public perception, was received enthusiastically by attendees and Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Ron Michel. Thira’s assertions included that in this context, suicide is not a mental health issue, but rather a “natural but terrible response to colonization.” Further, that the appropriate response by our social systems to such situations is not to impose external expertise, which is the kind of logic that led to the establishment of ‘care’ programs like the residential schools. Instead, he advocates for systemic support and respect for the resources already present in communities.