Initiative name: Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Life Promotion Strategy
Primary contact: Christine Simard-Chicago, Director of Women and Youth Development
Website address: http://www.nan.on.ca/article/life-promotion-project--851.asp
The importance of focusing on youth life promotion was really driven by the youth themselves. Youth have expressed strongly their recommendation to use life promotion over suicide prevention as a way to approach the issue of youth suicides. They see great value in taking a positive approach where building resiliency can be nurtured by focusing on strengths and resources and a positive world view.
A collaboration between the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI), the Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians (AIAI), the Chiefs of Ontario, Ontario First Nations Young People’s Council (OFNYPC) and NAN. This project is being administered by NAN and targets 96 First Nation communities. NAN is one of five Aboriginal political territorial organizations (PTOs) within Ontario. The remaining PTOs involved in this strategy are AIAI and UOI.
Goals of NAN’s Life Promotion Strategy
The goal of the Life Promotion Strategy is to encourage young people to engage in perceiving the world in a new light. Much of the struggles young people and First Nations (FN) peoples face is a negative self image (due to media portraying First Nations communities in a negative light). There is more to First Nations communities and culture than poverty and strife. The feedback we got from the young people involved their love for their land and this is shown in their photography.
Another objective we had was to encourage FN youth and community members to start talking about suicide. Suicide is still considered a taboo issue to talk about. We need to start encouraging everyone to start talk about the issues in order to start the healing journey.
The Life Promotion Strategy
There are three components to the Life Promotion Strategy:
- Photovoice project:
Photovoice gives youth the opportunity to voice their view through visual/photographic means to find a positive expression in their own terms, sharing their unique values, hopes and visions with other youth and community members across the nation. Youth were brought together to take part in the Photovoice project where they were taught the skills needed to take the photos, and then given the opportunity to take photos of what they find positive in their lives. As part of this project there was also a photography exhibit where a group of young artists were chosen to help select the artwork for the exhibit. The youth selected 22+ images to be developed for the opening launch which was held in February 2015. Photos can be found on NAN’s website.
- safeTALK training
Since January 2013, over 98 community support workers have been trained to be safeTALK© facilitators and are now working to deliver safeTALK workshops in their respective communities. 172 First Nations youth attended safeTALK workshops and Photovoice training in sessions in Sudbury, Thunder Bay and London. With safeTALK training these youth are now prepared to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources.
- Media campaign
In 2013, two public service announcements (PSAs) were developed for the Northern region of the Life Promotion Strategy. Two more were developed in 2014 for the Southern region. The direction we received for these PSAs came from the written evaluations from the previous years’ youth participants. These can be found on NAN’s website.
Evaluating the Life Promotion Strategy
We evaluated the trainings at the beginning and the end. Prior to taking the training, participants didn’t feel as comfortable approaching the issue of suicide. Upon receiving their training, participants stated they felt they had the tools they needed in order to help their community members who may be experiencing suicidal ideations.
At the opening of the photography exhibit, youth who had participated in the Life Promotion Strategy program shared how they had been empowered to share their story in order to help others. The Photovoice training helped them realize there are tools out there they can use to assist in their healing journey. These points stood out most in the evaluation report.