Residential schools are part of Canadian history and are now in our past. However, survivors and their family members are still being haunted by memories to this day. Aboriginal people of Canada face many issues connected to their past in regards to their mental health. Some examples of mental health issues that can affect Aboriginal people today are ones such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression. These mental health issues can also cause people to commit suicide or other harmful acts to themselves.
Society may not understand and can be confused as to why the affects to residential schools would effect Aboriginal youth today. According to Barlow(2009), “Studies suggest that the effects have transcended generations and have produced negative consequences by hindering the development of Aboriginal people in Canada and, in some instances, having a regressive effect on the conditions of various aspects of health.”(p.8)
Aboriginal mental health is one aspect that has been affected. Many school survivors must face symptoms of post traumatic stress and depression but so do their families. This is because when the survivor entered the school they lost their culture and in some cases their families. This loss has then been passed on to their families and is continued through future generations.
This loss of culture is extremely upsetting not only for the people directly effected but also for Canada as a nation. The government chose to assimilate Aboriginal people then they came to their senses and put an end to it. However, they did not take in to consideration the trauma inflicted on the survivors.
Services need to be put into place for residential school survivors and their families so that they can deal with their trauma and move past it. They need support from not only their community but all of Canadian society. Thirty percent of First Nations people have felt sad, blue or depressed. (Health Canada, 2007) Families need to be worked with so that the depression does not turn in to harming themselves. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in suicidal rates. The suicide rate for First Nation males is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal males. (Health Canada, 2007) This statistic is extremely high as well as extremely preventable.
Aboriginal mental health can be attributed to many factors one being residential schools. However, just as Canada introduced the schools and demolished them, Canada can introduce a system to help Aboriginal people overcome obstacles they face in regards to residential schools. The key to providing this system is public education. Survivors need strong vocal advocates who are committed to re-empowering Aboriginal people. (Reclaiming connections: understanding, 2005)