Burial of 15 year old Edmonton aboriginal who committed suicide

Mourners gather Friday, April 25, 2014, at the burial of a 15-year-old aboriginal girl who hanged herself in a group home on April 21, 2014. (Photograph by: Karen Kleiss , Edmonton Journal)

Teen Suicide

At SOS Safety Magazine, we are sad to report that we have learned about another teen suicide in Edmonton, Alberta. A troubled aboriginal 15 year old girl who resided in a group home took her own life by hanging herself from a closet bar in her Edmonton home on April 21, 2014.

KC was 15 years old, a ward of the province, a troubled young woman who cut her arms, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and repeatedly tried to kill herself, her family said.

On April 21, 2014 she hanged herself from a closet bar in her Edmonton group home, sometime in the early afternoon. Her body was found 12 hours later.

Like all children who die in foster care, she must remain nameless and faceless by law, but her family wants her story told.

KC’s aunt said caseworkers convinced the family the best way to help KC was to give her over to the province.

“When my sister signed the permanent guardianship order, they said KC would get the help that she needed. My sister believed them,” the aunt said.

“I was there. My sister pleaded and she cried. They promised her. They said they would help KC, but they didn’t.”

The aunt says the family wants to know why KC was left unsupervised, and for so long.

“It was no secret that KC was suicidal,” the aunt said. “She had 50 or 100 cuts on her arms.”

Aboriginal Youth Suicide

Aboriginal kids are more likely to be in foster care, more likely to die in care, and more likely to die by suicide.

The Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research reports that suicide rates among children in care are nearly triple those of children who are not in care.

Aboriginal children make up about nine per cent of the Alberta child population and account for 58 per cent of children in care, and the mortality rate for aboriginal children in care is 111 per 100,000, compared to 71 per 100,000 of non-aboriginal children in care.

KC’s death is not unique; the circumstances of her suicide appear almost identical to those of a 17-year-old aboriginal boy named DED-B. Like KC, he was known to be suicidal, and like KC, he hanged himself in an Edmonton group home.

A fatality inquiry was held, and a Provincial Court Judge said facilities for suicidal youth should have break-away closet bars that cannot support their weight in the event of a suicide attempt.

DED-B died in 2000, nearly 14 years ago; it is not known why the recommendation was not implemented at KC’s group home by 2014.

“I feel the system has failed my family,” the girl’s aunt said. “I think there should be a public inquiry.”

She said KC’s mother went to the group home to collect her daughter’s things, but had to fight to keep the girl’s diaries, which told the dark story of her descent into depression.

Youth worker Mark Cherrington said the diaries will be crucial to giving KC a voice, and figuring what went wrong in the days leading to her death.

“These are Anne Frank diaries — daily, detailed writing from a young woman in crisis,” Cherrington said. “And she just hung there, for hours. Then they shut down the group home, because everyone was traumatized, but there were no other appropriate facilities for the kids to go to.”

Community leaders said governments need to provide resources to help stop the suicide crisis among aboriginal teens.

“What’s going through my mind today is the turmoil and the agony the young lady experienced in trying to get her situation resolved through the child welfare jungle, and to be heard,” said Marilyn Buffalo, past-president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and a citizen of the Samson Cree Nation, who attended the funeral.

“The solution is for us to completely overhaul the child welfare system. The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility, and they cannot wash their hands and walk away.

“This child was a Treaty Indian, her mother is a Treaty Indian, and with that comes responsibilities that they have to look after these people.”

“It’s quite obvious, from all the evidence, that she was crying out for help.

If you think that you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal behaviour, Get Help Now

Edmonton Journal. “Teen dies by suicide in Edmonton group home” No break-away closet bar despite judicial recommendations in similar death.. Edmonton Journal, 25 April. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.