Sex abuse linked to suicide: grand chief

There appears to be a direct correlation between alleged sexual abuse on northern Ontario reserves and a number of recent suicides involving young girls, says Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

Fiddler, whose organization represents 49 of Ontario’s First Nation communities, says high rates of abuse are also being reported to police in his territory.

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“The victims of these suicides are young girls, young women,” he said in an interview.

“We’ve had young girls as young as 10 or 11 take their own lives.”

The magnitude of the problem prompted Fiddler to request a meeting that happened Monday evening with Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, as well as Liberal cabinet ministers Carolyn Bennett, Jane Philpott and Patty Hajdu.

“We had to take some action,” Fiddler said, noting young people with mental health challenges are flown out of communities almost daily to centres such as Thunder Bay, Ont.

Data is required to have a more complete picture of what is going on in communities, Fiddler said, noting police and mental health supports are not adequate to cope with the scope of the problem.

Officers and nurses also require appropriate tools to gather evidence in the immediate aftermath of an incident because they lack sexual assault forensic evidence kits, he said.

Sexual abuse was also a consistent theme raised during the sessions held as the Liberal government looked to design the inquiry into missing and murdered women.

“This is, in some ways, well known but not being dealt with,” Bennett said Tuesday.

“There’s a whole continuum of things we need to do differently if we are going to stop the cycle … such that people can get healing and such that this stops.”

As part of a months-long investigation by The Canadian Press, leading indigenous voices have described sexual abuse in a number of communities, drawing links to aboriginal suicide and missing and murdered indigenous women.

Abuse is “rampant” on reserves, Bellegarde conceded Tuesday, adding his chiefs must confront the issue at the community level.

It was important to hold a meeting with the three federal ministers, Bellegarde said, but he stressed much more work is required.

“We are not going to resolve anything in an hour and a little bit of a meeting, but we are going to keep collaborating,” he said.



4 Surprising Facts About Cutting and Self-Harm

Most people think cutting only affects angsty teenage girls with lots of eyeliner. But self-harm is a surprisingly widespread phenomenon that affects youth and adults, men and women

Self-harm (which includes cutting) is one of the last shameful topics. Today, folks take a proud stand against being fat-shamed or slut-shamed, but it’s a rare individual who will stand up and disclose his or her own self-injury.self harm cutting

But self-harm is far more widespread than you might suspect. A 2012 review of 52 self-injury studies from around the world found that around 18% of individuals had cut or otherwise deliberately injured themselves in their lifetime. That’s almost one in five.

Cutting often begins in the teenage years—on average, between the ages of 12-14. And in the U.S., more than 7% of teenagers have cut, burned, or otherwise deliberately injured themselves in the past year alone.

The technical term for cutting is non-suicidal self-injury, and it’s defined as the deliberate, self-inflicted destruction of body tissue. Plus there are two caveats: first, cutters aren’t trying to kill themselves. On the contrary, they often do it to feel alive rather than numbed. And second, it’s for “for purposes not socially sanctioned.” So your daughter piercing her nose or belly button doesn’t count, no matter how you feel about it. But cutting, burning, carving words or symbols into their skin, painful hair-pulling, and literally banging one’s head against the wall all count as methods of self-harm.

So what’s going on? To the outsider, it may seem incomprehensible, even crazy, but if you go with the truism that each person copes as best they can with the resources they have at the time, it gets a little more understandable. With that, here are four reasons individuals self-injure:

Reason #1: Physical pain diffuses negative emotion. The physical pain not only takes away emotional pain, but creates a sense of calm and relief. Because it works almost instantly, cutting is highly reinforcing—some even say addictive. Cutters describe the sensation as an escape or a release of pressure.

Eventually, the brain starts to connect the the relief from emotional pain with cutting, which creates a strong association, even a craving, that can be hard to resist. And while the average individual who self-injures does so for two to four years, many continue on well beyond that timeframe. Likewise, some injure themselves daily, while others can go weeks, months, or even years between episodes.

Reason #2: People who self-injure are really hard on themselves. A 2014 study asked college students who cut themselves, plus a control group of non-cutters, to keep a daily diary of their emotions for two weeks. The biggest difference between the cutters and the non-cutters?  Cutters reported feeling dissatisfied with themselves much more often, which manifested as harsh self-criticism. Indeed, self-injurers criticize themselves mercilessly, and sometimes carve their criticisms into their skin: “fat,” “stupid,” “failure.”  Interestingly, a 2012 study showed that harsh self-criticism is most strongly related to self-harm, rather than other, more indirect forms of self-injury, like eating disorders or drinking or drug abuse.

Reason #3:  It can be a way to feel. In particular, individuals with a trauma history may self-harm to feel something other than numbness and to take control of their own pain.

Reason #4: It’s an alternative way to feel negative emotion. Kids raised in a household where sadness, hurt, or disappointment get invalidated or mocked quickly learn it’s not okay to feel bad.  Cutting becomes an “acceptable” way to feel pain—if they’re not allowed to feel it emotionally, they’ll let it out physically.

In short, think of cutting and self-harm as any other unhealthy coping mechanism like getting drunk, binge eating, or getting high–it’s a way to feel something other than what you’re feeling, and, with the self-criticism angle, can be a way to punish yourself for not measuring up.

It goes without saying that cutting is dangerous—it’s all too easy to cut too deeply, even when suicide isn’t the intent.  And individuals who cut know it’s unhealthy–they go to great lengths to hide their behavior, not to mention their scars.

How Can Individuals Who Self-Harm Stop?

In a 2015 study, researchers asked former cutters why they stopped. There were many answers, but there were three big ones. First. almost 40% talked about self-awareness; those who came to realize they could handle feeling crappy for a while, or that they would probably feel better soon when negative emotion struck, stopped cutting. Nearly a quarter (24%) stopped because because they felt someone loved or cared for them—they may have entered a loving relationship or their friends made them feel worthy and cared for.  And 27% simply said they grew out of it.

But if those things don’t come into your life, what are some concrete methods to stop?

First, it’s important to match the solution with the reason for cutting. If cutting is a way to feel deep dark emotions, experiment with ways to feel those emotions safely: listen to music that allows you to feel what you feel, have a good cry, or write out your thoughts in a journal, even if you just write page after page of profanity in big black letters. Or if cutting is a way to release tension, move your body—visit a boxing gym or go for a long, pounding run.

If channeling your pain into another activity doesn’t work, you can try to simulate cutting—it won’t be as satisfying, but it’s safer.  Squeeze ice until your hands hurt or draw on your skin with a red marker instead of cutting it.

Finally, you can try waiting it out. It will be excruciating, especially at first, but the urge will pass. Promise yourself (or someone who loves you) that you’ll wait 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or however long you agree on.

To wrap up, cutting can be a hard habit to break—that harsh inner critic is a voice not easily silenced.  It takes time and courage, but know that that inner critic can slowly be edged out by something you didn’t even know you had: inner strength.