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An Important New Initiative: Suicide Prevention in First Nations Schools

“I remember I was once talking to an Elder on a reserve about the upcoming winter season, saying I was glad it’s hockey season. He responded to me, ‘around here it’s suicide season.’ I think ever since then, I’ve wanted to look at the question of why [youth] feel they have no other option, and then figure out how to help them.” It is not an easy topic to delve into, but for Kevin Kipling, Suicide Prevention Initiative Liaison Officer at MFNERC, it is a topic that he now devotes his professional life to – suicide.

“For some young people there is still a fear of talking about it,” Kevin explains. “We need to take away that stigma… Suicide rates are 10 times higher on Reserve than the general population.” The Suicide Prevention Initiative stems from the knowledge that all students struggle with academics when health determinants affect their lives. “How can a student focus on school work when they’re having suicidal thoughts?” sums up Kevin. The simple answer is, they can’t. With MFNERC’s new Initiative, the Centre wants to explore and examine the social/emotional impacts in the learning environment of First Nation schools, and to pursue all avenues that will benefit the student, the school and community. “Ultimately we want our First Nations youth to be able to envision a promising future by having networks in place at the school level; and by having specific suicide prevention, intervention and postvention supports in all the schools.”

It is the belief of MFNERC that any school that creates a learning environment inclusive of the social/ emotional aspects of the student, school and surrounding community, helps students and staff develop greater social and emotional competence. This, in turn, helps ensure positive personal and academic outcomes, and benefits the community as a whole.

“The research’s been done, the strategic plan is in place, now we just need the partnerships and funding,” Kevin concludes. And that will continue to be his job until the Initiative can be implemented into all of Manitoba’s First Nations schools.
For more information contact Kevin Kipling at

Further Links:
Healthy Child MB

Manitoba Association of School Superintendents

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training