Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 3 October, 2011

Inuit rally in Ottawa in face of suicide's toll
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Ottawa:  Recently, Inuit from across Canada gathered at a rally on Parliament Hill for World Suicide Prevention Day. Their goal: to raise awareness of their plight.

Suicide rates for Inuit youth are staggeringly high:
Up to 28 times the national average for males aged 15-24.
The overall rate for Inuit is 11 times the national toll.

“I don’t blame any of us for what we’re going through,"  said Mary Simon from the national Inuit advocacy group, Tapiriit Kanatami. "I blame the system and the services that don’t exist in People hold posters at Friday's Embrace Life rally on Parliament Hill, organized one day before World Suicide Prevention Day. our communities.”

Simon's organization teamed with the National Inuit Youth Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council to put together the event, called Embrace Life.

'I just lost a loved one from suicide in May. It's a hard thing to accept in yourself, within your inner peace,'  said Jennifer Watkins from the National Inuit Youth Council. “Suicide prevention is a very harsh topic to talk about and to live with, and we have to accept it because there is a lot of young people who are committing suicide."

Nunavut doesn’t have a mental-health centre, even though the best way to prevent suicides is with comprehensive medical services.

Manitok Thompson is a former Nunavut cabinet minister and a current director of Mental Health Commission of Canada. She said the lack of treatment centres and education about suicide must be addressed so that fewer young Inuit men take their own lives.

"There's lot of challenges but, you know, with the will we can do it." she said.  "We need the resources, we need the heart to love these men and to understand them, where they're coming from. The men need programs. They need to find the confidence in themselves, and we have not done well for our men in the territory."

Simanaaq Pitseolak hangs out at the Makkuttukkuvik Youth Centre in Iqaluit. She discussed what it was like to lose her cousin to suicide.  It felt “like I had nothing anymore,” Pitseolak said of her cousin’s death. “He was like a brother to me.”

Many young men touched by suicide don't want to talk about it, and this also worries Thompson. Giving a voice to one’s woes can help with the despair that often becomes unmanageable.

“If a child or a youth has somebody who they’re comfortable enough with to go to, then we can prevent suicide on an individual level,” said Heidi Langille from the National Aboriginal Health Organization’s program

Watkins agreed, adding, “We are around, your parents are around, your loved ones.  It will get better. It might take time, but it will eventually get better.”


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