SANKS

Sweden: 1 in 3 Young Reindeer Herders Consider Suicide

March 23, 2015 • Philip Burgess

Many might consider reindeer herding to be some kind of idyllic life. But it has its darker side. Anxiety, depression and the struggle for land are eroding the powers and vitality of young herders, and this appears to be particularly the case in Sweden at the present time, though anecdotally it is known that this is a challenge for young people across the world of reindeer husbandry. In Sweden, 1 in 3 young herders (18-29) have considered suicide.

Three excellent articles in NRK Sapmi by Liv Inger Somby this last week on this difficult topic. The first is an interview with Petter Stoor, a Sami psychologist who works at SANKS (Samisk nasjonalt kompetansesenter – psykisk helsevern go rus), based in Karasjok, Norway. SANKS is now the only institution in the Nordic countries that has expertise in culturally adapted suicide prevention among Sami, including culturally and linguistically adapted clinical psychiatry. Stoor stated in the article

There are complex reasons [for suicide]. Reindeer herding is a confrontational environment on many different levels. Everyday is very tough with the struggle for land. Constantly one has to fight in order to operate a profitable pastoralism. The range is huge and very complex, ranging from external to internal conflicts and family problems, which can lead to the youth gets tough in everyday life. Many feel their situation as heavy, they cannot mastered their defeats.

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