The Indigenous and the Adopted: a Link?

From here, we have just a brief excerpt from an article about suicide (and other health risks) amongst indigenous people around the world:

Some of the reports alarming statistics include, “In the United States, a Native American is 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis and 62 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population. In Australia, an Indigenous child can expect to die 20 years earlier than his non-native compatriot. The life expectancy gap is also 20 years in Nepal, while in Guatemala it is 13 years and in New Zealand it is 11. In parts of Ecuador, indigenous people have 30 times greater risk of throat cancer than the national average. Suicide rates of indigenous peoples, particularly among youth, are considerably higher in many countries, for example, up to 11 times the national average for the Inuit in Canada.”

Inasmuch as we know that adopted children (and adults) have higher than average suicide rates, what links do you see between these facts?

How also can we reverse these increased health risks, for ourselves and for others, adopted, indigenous, or both alike?

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6 thoughts on “The Indigenous and the Adopted: a Link?

  1. Also from the article:

    Central Queensland University Bundaberg campus coordinator Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian said she is devastated by the rising disenfranchisement of Aboriginal youth, and the world’s highest suicide rate – of Australia’s Aboriginal children.

    “Across my desk came a study that reported ‘the number of completed Indigenous suicides (in the Kimberley) last year exceeded the Australian Defence Force fatalities in Afghanistan.’ I cannot comprehend this statement. It is too much,”

  2. The article reports:

    [An official report] highlighted the underlying causes to Aboriginal youth suicide as mental illness, substance abuses and sexual abuse trauma but failed to highlight acute poverty and a suite of rights denied to this day to Aboriginal peoples in many of these troubled communities – What is missing in many of these communities are the pathways and access to opportunities and to the benefits of education and hard work which the rest of Australia does have access to. These communities continue to be neglected by State and Federal Government jurisdictions and their agencies – services and layers of community infrastructure have not been grafted into these communities and instead they are dilapidated third-world environments.

    It seems very problematic that official bodies would identify mental illness, substance abuse, and sexual abuse (by whom?) trauma, as all of these effectively blame the victim, as the article makes clear by pointing out what this official report does not consider. Further on, Yavu-Kamu-Harathunian notes, “All around this community (Mowanjum) there is so much progress, production, affluence. What is this progress, this production, this affluence stealing from our people? … To read about this painful crisis, to recognise the layers of disconnection, the internal anguish, community sorrow, pain, trauma, suffering is like a microcosm of the inherent legacy of pain, torment, and suffering that our people are immersed in.”

  3. I appreciate the reference to colonialism above. I was just writing up something on dealing with trauma, and came across this passage from an article by Alice Cherki. It’s from a book called: Living Fanon: Global Perspectives, edited by Nigel C. Gibson:

    One must reread “Colonial War and Mental Disorders,” a chapter of Wretched of the Earth seldom discussed. From his experience as a clinician, Fanon invites us, in a quasi-prophetic manner, to anticipate the long-term consequences of the aftermath of war on both sides—that of the torturers and the tortured. This will be, he says, the “human heritage of France and Algeria.” After several years, actors in this tragedy (often under the pressure of their descendants and contaminated by the traumas and secrets that surround them) speak, write, and sometimes film their suffering, their somatic and psychological troubles, and the profound alteration of their personality, often in the very terms Fanon used in his clinical descriptions during the 1950s.

    However, this weighs little on the current sociopolitical context. In fact, everywhere, subjective speech is viewed as bothersome. Everywhere, it is recommended that the subject be a submissive and alienated object. Yet Fanon wanted to free humanity, subjectively, culturally, and politically. He incessantly repeated this assertion in his actions in psychiatry as well as in his political engagements, his thought, and his writings. He did not want the human project to become an “ever menacing death.” Yet the psychical consequences of the violence of colonial history and the silence that surrounds them are driven back from generation to generation. The traumas and the destruction of all references and genealogies make up a great part of current generations’ psychological disorders, at least in France and in Algeria….

    Fanon has, in an extremely prescient manner, asked questions about what hinders subjective development. He describes the effects of the loss of language, of the violence of history and its renewals from generation to generation, of rejections, of the devalorization and the exclusions of references and genealogies, of arrested traumas, all frozen in an impossible elaboration caused by denial and silencing. He indicates their clinical effects, the infinite erratic violence, the shame, the sideration [apoplexy], the withdrawal of a petrified body, a body in excess, upon itself.

    This brings us perhaps back to what we were discussing in the question about “Why Not Suicide?” [link] whether suicide might not be a form of resistance….I don’t mean to bring that question here. But the “bottling up/denial of a scream” compounded by generations of oppression as described here does not leave much in the way of egress.

    I was writing up my piece on trauma because of a conversation with a friend and fellow adoptee; we were comparing stress symptoms, and discussing the health effects of stress. There is something disturbing in the idea of a body in a constant state of “fight or flight”, such that it destroys itself. Perhaps this is just a slower version of suicide; the body’s irrational final decision, overriding the objection of the rational mind….

    • Good reply, and so also: to belabor the probably obvious, how to resist this so we do not commit incidental suicide by dying 20 years before we might otherwise?

      • I think we must, in one or another fashion, “misbehave” by taking whatever action(s) we may individually believe best for ourselves. For some, speaking out may be sufficient, but others may need physical exertion to discharge pent-up emotions lest they wreck the body.

        I am of a mind that adoptees, particularly those of color, are fetish objects that embody the pain/shame of societies that view women as bodies-for-sexual gratification and that are incapable of leveling the playing field of life so as to assure societal member at least has available the minimum necessities of life.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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