CANADA: Aboriginal youth suicide rates addressed using art

January 22, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

CBC News

The project Acting Out, But in a Good Way is demonstrating that creating art can significantly affect mental health among First Nations youth, who have very high suicide rates. First Nations University staff are providing visual arts and drama classes for youth on reservations and then interviewing them about the experience. The teachers and researchers are also aboriginal so that the youth can identify with them and have role models. “Especially them being indigenous, gave me a sense of belonging,” said Aisha O’Watch, a former participant in the program and now a first year university student. The results of the project have been very positive so far. Research assistant Benjamin Ironstand said, “With the arts, we believe and we’re finding that it gives students a voice. . . .It gives them a way to express their feelings and their stories and who they are.” This process is helping increasewell-being, confidence, and a sense of identity and belonging. The researchers hope it will also help decrease suicide rates.