The government of Canada established a telephone help line for indigenous peoples in October 2016 and now, it has expanded the service to provide counselling though online chat.
Counselling said to be ‘culturally competent’
The free service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Hope for Wellness Help Line was established to provide “culturally competent telephone counselling.” The toll-free telephone number is 1-855-242-3310.
The telephone service is provided in English, French and upon request the native languages of Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. A news release announces that the online chat is available in English and French, with “expansion to Indigenous languages currently being explored.”
Soaring suicide rates
The service is sorely needed. Suicide rates among Indigenous peoples are several times higher than among the non-Indigenous population. Suicide is a major cause of death among Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Teen suicides regularly make headline news.
Under the heading of ‘risk factors for suicidal thoughts,’ a Canadian government website notes that taking children from their families to attend residential schools “exposed many Aboriginal children to separation from family; physical and sexual abuse; and suppression of their language and cultural identity.”
Residential school for Indigenous children closed in 1996, but their terrible legacy persists.