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First Nations youth lead innovative and collaborative suicide prevention and life promotion activities in community

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Haisla Nation Culture Camp, where Megan Metz spoke with youth about mental health and wellness last summer.
 
Young First Nations community members are guiding the important work of preventing suicide and promoting life in communities all across BC. Specifically, 15 First Nations youth who have lived experience with suicide are working together to be champions of life promotion. They are collaborating and supporting each other in sharing life-promoting activities with their younger peers in their home communities.
 
Megan Metz is from Haisla Nation and delivered a life promotion activity in her community last summer. She took a two-hour boat ride up the Douglas Channel to speak with twenty 10-14 year olds at the ten-day long Haisla Culture Camp. To prepare, she asked herself what she wished she’d been told about when she was younger.
 
“I realized that I wish I’d known about intergenerational trauma. It was hard to navigate my world, my life, without understanding it,” said Megan. “Intergenerational trauma explained the heavy feelings.”
 
So she decided to talk with the youth about mental health and wellness, Indian residential schools, how trauma can be passed on from one generation to the next, and what that looks like in daily life.
 
“We talked about the signs to look for if someone is going through a hard time; that others can project their pain onto you – but it’s not you. It’s intergenerational trauma,” says Megan.
 
What kind of impact does Megan hope she’s had on those youth?
 
“I hope that the kids realize that they do have somewhere they belong and will be accepted … that they understand the loneliness or shame they may feel and also know that:  it’s okay to be you! And to just try to be more aware and understanding of the people and situations around you.”

Megan is one of a larger group of youth, referred to collectively as the Youth Leading Youth Advisory Committee for Life Promotion (YLYAC-LP), which receives grant funding from the Canadian Federation for Health Improvement (CFHI) and has First Nations Health Authority and Fraser Health as project partners.  
 
The goal of this project is to empower youth to steer the collaborative process. As project partners, FNHA and Fraser Health provide the tools, resources, and supports for the youth to succeed.
 
“Each youth is developing into a community champion for life promotion – capable of prioritizing community needs for action, building local capacity to promote life, and engaging with community members and leadership to plan locally-appropriate responses,” says Ryan Moyer, FNHA Program Consultant for Mental Health & Wellness and a YLYAC-LP project lead.
 
The 15 youth have gathered three times since March 2018 for sharing, learning, brainstorming, and ceremony. They also participated in workshops to enhance their knowledge and skills in promoting mental health and wellness – all the while nurturing the relationships they are building as a team so they can support each other’s work.

The youth have decided to create personal work plans that align with priorities they have identified as a group. The work plans outline the activities they want to share with the youth in their communities. They are committed to hosting two community events each by April of next year.

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