Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 30, 2018 - 11:30 am

Another Nunavut community says its people are in crisis

"We are in desperate need of help with mental health issues"

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak tabled a letter in the legislature last week from Gjoa Haven mayor Joanni Sallerina to Health Minister Pat Angnakak, saying his community is
Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak tabled a letter in the legislature last week from Gjoa Haven mayor Joanni Sallerina to Health Minister Pat Angnakak, saying his community is "in desperate need of help with mental health issues." (FILE PHOTO)

While Pangnirtung has responded publicly to the urgent health needs of its youth, another Nunavut community has quietly asked the territorial government for help with its own mental health crisis.

When Gjoa Haven’s hamlet council met earlier this year, council members agreed the community’s existing health and social service supports aren’t enough to meet its needs.

“We are in desperate need of help with mental health issues,” Gjoa Haven Mayor Joanni Sallerina wrote in an April 10 letter to Nunavut Health Minister Pat Angnakak.

“The community sees that the mental health workers are overworked and therefore not able to meet all of the needs of the community.

“Clients are becoming violent in homes that are already overcrowded and children, elders and special needs people are being affected by this violence,” Sallerina said.

“There has been a tragic increase in suicide as well as assault with a deadly weapon, two of which have ended in murder.”

Sallerina then pointed to a more recent incident, when a mental health patient had to be subdued and medevaced to Yellowknife because of the danger he posed to himself and others. Sallerina said the man was not getting support to take his medication.

Although the letter was written last month, it was only made public May 24, when Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak tabled a copy in the legislative assembly.

In the letter, Sallerina also mentioned wanting to fill a paraprofessional position, which refers to the GN’s pledge to hire a number of local mental health outreach workers across the territory over the next two years.

Nunavut’s Health Department has so far filled two of these positions, while a spokesperson said it’s in the process of reviewing “resumés from various communities.”

But Gjoa Haven’s hamlet council says it also wants to hire qualified, professional health workers who can provide on-call services, home visitation and counselling, potentially from a new outpatient facility.

In the meantime, Sallerina urged Angnakak to visit the community to see the issues in person.

“I am asking you to come to Gjoa Haven and speak with our council about the needs of our community, ” he said.

The community specifically wants to see the creation of an “outpatient facility that could help monitor, counsel and manage mental health patients with their day-to-day living,” said Sallerina.

Akoak raised the issue with Angnakak May 24 in the legislative assembly.

“Yes, I have seen the letter and we are in the process of responding to it,” Angnakak said.

“I can commit to visiting the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven; I would love to do that.”

Angnakak has yet to set a date for her visit, but said she’ll coordinate the timing to ensure Akoak can be there.

Earlier this month, the hamlet of Pangnirtung decided to make its own problems public, when it asked for support to deal with a dozen recent suicide attempts among local youth.

Since then, the GN has flown in a crisis team and an extra mental health worker, while the local schools brought in an anti-bullying group and asked local elders to talk with youth about mental wellness and resilience.

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(23) Comments:

#1. Posted by Wakeup on May 30, 2018

Pangtastic might have shed light they are not so fantastic and attracted the media but as a MLA Minister said it is every community. 

An overall NU plan is required whereby all will follow it to healthier lives—not the current patchwork. All elected officials would work together for all—NOT ONE place.  All support what is best perhaps using a scale (current infrastructure, most need, costs, future statistics, et.)

#2. Posted by curious on May 30, 2018

I wonder if Gjoa Haven’s former MLA, Nunavut’s former Minsiter of Health and Canada’s former Minister of Health has any regrets about killing the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It would appear that Gjoa Haven needs the kind of community-based healing project that the AHF supported. Might Leona Aglukkaq be reached for comment, wherever she is these days? Presumably not in Gjoa Haven…

#3. Posted by sled dog on May 30, 2018

“I can commit to visiting the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven; I would love to do that.”

Does the minister really need to attend or is it just for show. What is the cost of the minister and entourage going to Gjoa Haven?

#4. Posted by All communities on May 30, 2018

It happens in all Nunavut communities, and a lot of other places in
Canada also.
So many people just do not care what happens to their families, as
long as they can drink, toke, or gamble. Their poor children go thru
hunger and hell because of it.
Problems ? Wait till Mary Jane becomes legal, many more !!
The GN is not forcing this on people, they are doing it to themselves.
  Complaining about Leona Aglukkaq ? I think she done a good job
for Nunavut. Got rid of a lot of BS programs.
Hunter Tootoo is the MP for Nunavut ( I think ) no comments from him?

#5. Posted by AWOL on May 30, 2018

The problems are deep and systemic, and not likely to be solvable by conventional analysis.

When people talk about drugs, booze, gambling, or whatever kinds of addictions, these are manifestations of deeper issues, not the main problems.

So what are the issues? Living in a tiny, insular community, cut off from the world. No hope for much of a life.

Your best bet for happiness as a young person is to get the hell out and never look back.

#6. Posted by Peter on May 30, 2018

Good question #2 the Conservatives made so many cuts to programs and this was one of them, the AHF was just starting to get into more communities and helping with the much needed mental health programs when it was cut.

I think it is one of the reasons now we are seeing more communities in this terrible situation. There is no real help or services in the communities.

I believe Leona sits on a big rich mining/oil company board down south and getting a nice pay cheque out of it.

#7. Posted by Common Sense on May 30, 2018

What do you expect when you elect inept people into the Legislative Assembly? The whole territory is in crisis.

#8. Posted by New Staff on May 30, 2018

Southerners come up here to work for GN and secretly, do not know what to do about suicide. 

The rates are so low down south that it may never have touched their lives.

They are clueless as to why people do this up here.

Sad to say, these are the people who make the speeches and put together the Action Plan who must have their fingers crossed under the table, hoping it will work.

#9. Posted by Worker. (Yellowknife ) on May 30, 2018

Over the years I have worked in a few communities in Nunavut.
  Know what I think?

#10. Posted by concern inuk on May 30, 2018

Closing all mental health positions at local health centre needs to be priority to offset wrong way of Inuit societal values culture destruction

#11. Posted by New staff on May 30, 2018

# 8 you are absolutely touched the point, no one cares about suicides or murder suicides. The coroner called inquest to reduce suicides and jury made 45 recommendations but we are still talking about action plans and to proof read we spend 200,000$ ???. No one cares everyone is looking for there jobs and abusing the tax payers money but no accountability. They take away whoever voice concerns are ask questions.

#12. Posted by Observer on May 30, 2018

Every Nunavut community is in crisis.  Some have admitted it, others have not done so yet.

They have no resources to work with.

Almost everything in Nunavut is owned by 3 organizations:

1.  Arctic Coop Ltd. in Winnipeg
2.  NTI, its associated ORGs, and subsidiary companies
3.  Government of Nunavut.

They are too busy protecting their control to get anything done.

I hear lots of talk about volunteers.  But a call for volunteers to work for free does no go over well when it comes from someone with a well paying job, a house of their own and a full belly.  Especially when the person being asked to work for free is homeless, hungry, and sees no reasonable chance of getting a job.

The lack of hope is what makes the difference between a bad situation and a crisis. 

When was the last time peddlers of hope delivered in Nunavut? 

People are jaded and desperate. I fear things won’t end well…

#13. Posted by Debbie on May 30, 2018

I live in Igloolik, Nu.
And I had a little brother who was turning 21 when he committed suicide but the catch is, four days before he even killed himself, I tried to get him an appointment for the mental health because his schizophrenia was severe BUT they told me to wait a week. A WEEK!!! I tried asking if he could be seen earlier than a week but they said they were busy… FULLY BOOKED they said but at the time, there were two therapist in town that time, it was in January.
How many more suicides until they speak up about this?

#14. Posted by Observer on May 31, 2018

Although the situation is severe in Nunavut it is also severe in southern Canada. When I moved away from Nunavut after 10 years it took me a year and a half to get an appointment with a phsychiatrist at which time I was diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD… traumatic stress disorder. So lack of mental health services are being reported Canada wide…

#15. Posted by Geeta on May 31, 2018

I believe the AHF was a 5 year commitment, it expired, so no, Aglukkaq didn’t cut it.
I will say, no other MP pumped more money into NU than Aglukkaq. Did anyone read the last federal budget? Nunavut got squat. I would recommend people start focusing on the absence of your current MP Hunter Tootoo, if you were to compare the 2 MP’s through an unbiased lens, you would see it’s a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”

#16. Posted by Quincy ( Talayoak ) on May 31, 2018

# 2, #6,
I worked with Leonna Aglukaq in Gjoa Haven and I found her to be
a very competent worker.
Whatever she is doing down south, I hope she is happy, and content.

#15, Very true what you say, but then that is the way of some people,
they get a good person and they put them down and vote them out.
    I wonder if Mr. Tootoo realizes he was voted in?

# 14, Good comment, we have the same problems throughout Canada.

#17. Posted by Tundra Buzzard on May 31, 2018

#14 is right about how much are not reported who need mental health treatment. Look at was is happening all ove r the world, war, school shootings, terrorism, much of the people of the world is lost and need help, especially when it comes to mental health. We’re not the only ones in crisis but lets get sober first.

#18. Posted by Knockout Ned on May 31, 2018

Kudos to the communities of Gjoa Haven and Pang for speaking out. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

Yes, every one of our communities needs help. This is how we get it - by standing up and talking about it. No matter how painful it is. No matter how uncomfortable it.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Keep talking about it. Based on Minister Akeeagok’s statements the other day, you have a receptive audience in Iqaluit.

#19. Posted by But Wait... on June 01, 2018

But what happens every time a teacher, or another school employee, or a health centre employee tries to help youth by reporting when there’s abuse or neglect in their home? Everyone gets together on Facebook and wants to kick that employee out of the community.

#20. Posted by Joe at Haven on June 01, 2018

# 19, In some cases that is true for sure, but I see the main problem as
being people who are not doing their jobs ,who are working with youth,
and getting well paid for it.
  All they want is to go on duty travel and leave it to volunteers.
We let those free loaders get away with it year after year, ourselves
to blame for self inflicted problems.
  No wonder we are such a mess.

#21. Posted by Jmp on June 01, 2018

#5. Take your ignorant comment and try living in the shoes of someone who has lived in these communities their while life. In my shows for example, I love it up here, it’s my home, I don’t wanna leave my land, my land provides for me, gives me food, warmth for clothing and gives me my culture. I’m so tired of people like you saying we need to move out. Get yourself educated first before saying something so ignorant.

As for mental health, we need more cultural healing and cultural programs.

#22. Posted by AWOL on June 02, 2018

#21 Here’s a prediction; in 20 years from now these issues will not have changed one iota. More than likely they will be be worse than better.

I never said you should move, or that you have to move. My advice to the young people suffering in these hopeless communities is to get the hell out. That’s what I would recommend.

As far as I can tell the smart ones, and the ones with the means have done just that.

Good for them.

#23. Posted by Reality Elder, Cambridge Bay on June 03, 2018

# 21, I think my idea of a traditional Inuit life style is a lot different than
    yours. If you love it so much go live it !!

# 22 A powerful statement to make.
      My friend who is from the U.K. told me it is the same over, young
people who make a go of life , and those who do drugs and become
homeless. He calls it the self inflicted torment of today.

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