Atausiuqatigiingniq Inuusirmi

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Nunavummiut are some of the strongest and most resilient people in the world. This May 4-6, 2016, the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy partners hosted a summit, drawing more than a 100 stakeholders from all walks of life: Elders, wellness leaders, survivors and youth met to build on our strengths, and help develop a five-year action plan for suicide prevention. This stake­holder summit, Atausiuqatigiingniq Inuusirmi (United for Life), recognized that Nunavummiut are affected by the loss of loved ones, and that we know what we need and we are united in our pursuit of a better tomorrow.

The summit began with mapping the many programs that already work in our communities. The Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre has developed, based on our Elder’s knowledge, evidence-based programs in Inuit parenting and youth mental health. Ilisaqsivik Society has developed a training and certification process for counsellors to meet the need for Inuit language healing and residential school treatment programs. The Arviat Wellness Committee has introduced Young Hunters, an after-school program for youth, which resulted in increased school attendance, food security, mental wellness, transmission of traditional knowledge and intergenerational connectedness. Individual and community initiatives such as these, serve as the foundation for lasting mental wellness, resiliency and suicide prevention throughout our communities.

The Government of Nunavut has also made significant investments. We have trained more than 2,000 people to be interveners, and the most recent group received their certificates during the week of the summit. We have significantly increased mental health capacity in communities: we have child and youth outreach workers, mental health workers and psychiatric nurses in many of our communities. In March of this year, we added another 22 positions, bringing our budget to $24 million, up from $6.3 million in 2004 when we began working together.

There is no doubt a lot more work needs to be done. Summit stakeholders know what works in our communities and what is needed to reduce the incidence of suicide. Our Elders, informal counsellors, mentors and leaders do the bulk of this work. They are the ones who lead language and culture camps, Inuktitut preschool, activities for youth and parenting programs. These activities speak to the need for Inuit self-determination, while ensuring healthy individuals and communities. In the long-term action plan, summit participants called for multi-year funding and safe places to continue this work.

Above all, summit participants spoke to the need to heal together and safe places for that to happen. Participants want to reach those who are in the justice system, those who are being bullied in school, those who have faced abuse, or dropped out of school. Nunavummiut want intergenerational healing circles, men’s groups and youth groups in every community.

As Premier Peter Taptuna stated in October, there is not a family in Nunavut that has not been affected by suicide, and added that
our future “requires collective action with communities, families and outside partners.” I join summit participants in reaffirming this sentiment. We are all in this together. We are United for Life!

The Honourable Monica Ell-Kanayuk
Minister responsible for Suicide Prevention for the Government of Nunavut

The Honourable Monica Ell-Kanayuk is the Minister responsible for Suicide Prevention for the Government of Nunavut, a new portfolio created in October 2015. Since 2004, the Government of Nunavut (GN), Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police  V-Division (RCMP) have been working together, with the creation of the Embrace Life Council (IIKELC), on reducing suicide. In 2009, the partners engaged communities for the development of the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy. That strategy was readopted by the partners in January 2016, and a one-year action plan, Resiliency Within,
was released on March 7, 2016.

Remember, you are not alone. Help is available.
Call: Kamatsiaqtut Help Line for anonymous support, 24/7 at 1-800-265-3333, Illisaqsivik for support in Inuktitut at 1-888-331-4433 or visit your community health centre.