Higher suicide rates among Canada’s Aboriginal people

Suicide is an important public health problem in Canada, but nowhere is this problem as striking and extreme as it is among Aboriginal Canadians. Though suicide completion rates vary widely across communities and regions, rates in Aboriginal communities are almost ten times the national average.

A lack of evidence-based knowledge

We still lack an appropriate understanding of the factors contributing to the high rates of suicide in Aboriginal populations. In particular, it is unclear whether risk factors known to contribute to suicide (such as lack of family and community support systems, poverty, psychiatric symptoms, personality traits and other heritable factors) play the same roles in Aboriginal populations. Moreover, there is a relative paucity of data addressing the processes and resources important to survival and the factors associated with the development of suicide resilience. Without such evidence-based knowledge, it is difficult to develop and implement suicide prevention programs that will effectively address suicide in Aboriginal populations.

A project on suicide prevention for Aboriginal people

In February 2003, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Health Canada hosted a workshop in Montreal to identify priority issues in suicide research in Canada. It was clear from these discussions that the prevention of Aboriginal suicide was an important avenue of research.
In 2004, through a partnership with the Institutes of Aboriginal People’s Health and the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, CIHR issued a Request for Applications for a ‘New Emerging Team’ of researchers focusing on “suicide prevention targeting Aboriginal people.”

This project is funded by CIHR until 2010.


Eduardo Chachamovich
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ext. 3357

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