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In their own words : exploring survival factors in suicidal Aboriginal youth : a critical incident study Arato-Bollivar, Juliette

Abstract

This study explores the survival factors that suicidal Aboriginal Youth used to keep themselves alive. The purpose of this study was to develop categories that would identify themes in the events reported by Aboriginal individuals, by exploring the research question: "What are the critical incidents contributing to survival in suicidal aboriginal youth?". The research method involved interviews with 20 adult (18 and over) Aboriginal volunteers (all residents of British Columbia) who possessed the ability to articulate, identify and discuss their stories of survival. The Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan, 1954) was utilized to elicit 254 incidents from 20 participants. Fourteen categories were created from the analysis of all events reported. Thorough validation techniques were applied in order to test the soundness and comprehensiveness of the categories. In addition, efforts were made to examine fit with the literature of the categories and expert commentary concerning the results was provided. The categories reflected that survival factors included: Responsibility to Others, Connection to/Love of Family, Professional Support, Support of Non family/ Non Professional Individuals, Cognitive Shift/ Change in Thinking, Avoiding a Negative Environment, Formal Education, Connection to Cultural Heritage, Getting Sober, Normalizing One's Difficult Experiences/Learning You Are Not Alone, Spirituality, Connection to Nature, Self Acceptance/Love/Care, and Sense of Purpose/Making a Difference. In addition, gender differences were examined and, through incidental commentary of the participants, factors hindering survival were identified. The findings of this study contribute to the field of counselling psychology by providing a scheme of categories that attempt to describe, from the perspective of Aboriginal people, what has aided them in surviving suicidal thoughts, actions and behaviours, in their youth. This research suggests promising developments in Aboriginal survival and contains implications for practice and research.

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