The National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) released a new suicide prevention guide yesterday on suicide prevention and two-spirited people. In its release, NAHO states that while suicide rates among two-spirited, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender First Nations and Aboriginal persons is not known, “the rates of related risk factors in these groups indicate that the suicide risk is greater than among heterosexual First Nations.” The guide is designed to address these risks.
In the release, NAHO Acting CEO Simon Brascoupé is quoted saying, “Two-spirited people were accepted in First Nations communities prior to European contact…Since then there has been a sense that being two-spirited is wrong, resulting in them feeling marginalized and increasingly alienated, sometimes resulting in suicide. This guide is a reminder of the values that First Nations culture is based upon, such as inclusiveness and diversity.”
NAHO developed the guide to “make what we know about suicide prevention and two-spiritedness more accessible. When people know more, they can do more.” The guide both educates and provides concrete advice to health professionals, service providers, the public, and the two-spirit community about suicide and prevention.
In its release, NAHO writes that
[blockquote][d]espite gains being made by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) communities around the world, two-spirited First Nations people still experience oppression and exclusion from three potential sources: their First Nations community because they are two-spirited, GLBT communities because they are First Nations, and mainstream communities for both reasons.[/blockquote]
The guide includes a definition of the term two-spirit, information about the increased risk of suicide for two-spirited people, resources, and a section on how you can help. The guide advises to:
Include two-spirited people as valued community members in all aspects of community life. Recognize that inclusion is an ongoing process…Invite them. Embrace them. Involve them.
Speak out against homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and cis-sexism, particularly if you are in a leadership role.
Be open about your acceptance of twospirit diversity. Stand by and stand up for two-spirited people.
Break the silence. Talk about suicide and gender/sexual orientation to family members,
friends, leaders, Elders and service providers. If you talk openly, respectfully and compassionately you will help to overcome stigma, fear and shame.
The guide is informative, well-researched, and powerful in its advocacy for two-spirit and LGBT First Nations and Aboriginal peoples. Its release also marks a step-forward in health care provision for two-spirit and LGBT First Nations and Aboriginal communities.
Photo credit: NAHO