River of Life Program

River of Life: Online Course about Aboriginal Youth Suicide

The River of Life course discusses strategies designed to strengthen the protective factors of youth at risk. The material focuses on providing participants who work with youth the knowledge to respond to youth at risk of suicide.


River of Life has been developed with extensive consultation with Aboriginal people.  The Advisory committee included Elders from Métis and First Nation communities, as well as members from the community who work with Aboriginal youth.
Participants taking this course have three months to complete the course from the time they log into the course. Participants have taken anywhere from a week to four weeks to complete the course.
Learning Objectives
Upon completion of River of Life, participants will be able to:
  1. Explain the current context of youth suicide within Aboriginal communities
  2. Describe the impact of key historical events that have disrupted cultural continuity and continue to negatively impact Aboriginal youth
  3. Identify and define factors that either protect or put Aboriginal youth at risk of suicide
  4. Recognize the warning signs or invitation suggesting that an Aboriginal youth might be at risk of suicide
  5.  Recall the legal responsibilities when working with Aboriginal youth at risk of suicide
  6. Define the three levels of suicide response: Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention.
Learning Methods
·    Audio/visual presentations
·    Teaching stories
·    Reflections
·    Learning activities
·    Case studies & unit tests
The River of Life online course has been created for adults working with youth ages fifteen to twenty-four.
Participants will receive a certificate of completion after completing the online course.


What is River of Life?
River of Life is an online course to address Aboriginal youth suicide prevention.  It was designed in collaboration with Elders, Aboriginal community members and with extensive research.   
Who designed River of Life?
River of Life was designed by the Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  CSP was guided and directed by members of the Aboriginal communities in their area. It took over two years to develop and pilot the content before it went to an online design.
What will I learn in River of Life?
River of Life focuses on the strength of Aboriginal culture, including their world view, spiritual understanding and relationship with each other and the world around them as strong protective factors.  Supported by research and extensive consultations with Aboriginal communities, the course comprises of: recognizing the impact of colonization, recognizing protective factors, warning signs, talking about suicide with youth, process of intervention, legal responsibilities and three levels of suicide response: prevention, intervention and postvention.
How will I use this training?
You will use this training to work with others to engage, educate and empower your community, your schools, your police departments, health departments and so much more.
What will I have when I finish this?
When you finish you will receive a certificate of completion of the course, issued by the Centre for Suicide Prevention.
I did not finish school, will I still understand this?
Anyone with the heart and will to join forces with others to help prevent suicide will benefit from this program.
Can I help somebody if I take this course?
You can help somebody with the intervention skills learned in the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program plus the River of Life program which teaches prevention, intervention and postvention skills.
Is this only a First Nations program?
No, this is not only a First Nations program; it is for the Métis and Inuit communities as well.


"The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) strongly supports the continued development and implementation of the River of Life training program."
Click here for the full letter of endorsement from National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

All of these testimonials have been taken from anonymous course participant evaluations.
“I really enjoyed taking this course for work but also these are skills that we will have for life. I also enjoyed hearing stories from different tribes and how we can incorporate them into our learning process not just for us but also for youth.”
“Thank you for an inspiring, thought provoking, online experience.”
“This course taught a lot about the Circle of Life, Natural Law, and other aboriginal teachings. I believe this is very important in working with youth today, who do not have that knowledge and are still suffering from historical events. It was all very clearly laid out.”
“The circle of life I think had the greatest impact on me. I also feel it is so important to have a balanced life, and knowing how to do that is so important.”
“This course covers a lot of information in a short time, which makes it quite easy for anyone to do. Also having it self-paced is great, because you can work on it whenever you have time.”
“I found this course very informative. Thank you to all who took the time and effort in putting it together. Suicide is not a fun topic, but when it is a reality, it is important to know how to handle the different situations. Thank you so much!”


Interview with CSP Curriculum Developer Suzanne McLeod
Calgary, CBC Radio The Homestretch, "Suicide rates in native communities"
Originally Broadcasted: May 1, 2012  

Interview with CSP Curriculum Developer Suzanne McLeod
Calgary, City TV, "Suicide on the Reserves"
Originally Broadcasted: July 22, 2009 



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