Celebrate life campaign reaches out to Nunavik youth

“Nothing in life is permanent, even the storm eventually ends”


“We need to be proud of who we are and where we come from,” said Andrea Brazeau of Kangiqsualujjuaq in a post on Reach Out Nunavik.

“As an Inuk male, I have trouble seeking help,”” wrote Andrew Epoo in his powerful Reach Out Nunavik post. The image and quote waere shared almost 400 times on Facebook.

In February, Nunavimmiut might have gone onto Facebook and seen a familiar face peering back at them.

Pictured in a black and white close-up shot, Andrew Epoo, from Inukjuak, is wearing a hood over a nassak, appearing calm but intense.

Next to him, a quote: “As an Inuk male, I have trouble seeking help. I have trouble admitting that I have been abused.”

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The words are Epoo’s. The quote finishes: “It won’t stop me from being around for those I love.”

The simple but direct statement was among the first to appear as part of a new social media campaign called Reach Out Nunavik, designed to help support youth at risk of suicide.

The Facebook page, launched in January by Nunavik’s Regional Suicide Prevention Committee, was originally designed to spread helpful information and tips, said committee chair, Valerie Lock.

The timing was tragic but right: since December, five young people from Kuujjuaq have died by suicide.

That’s drawn thousands of Nunavimmiut to the page, and encouraged other youth to use the campaign as a platform for their own powerful stories of despair and hope.

“We’ve been going through such a difficult time here in Kuujjuaq,” Lock said. “Our youth really want things to change and they’re willing to do what it takes.”

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But Lock says that Reach Out isn’t a suicide prevention campaign; rather, it’s a page designed to celebrate life.

“When the bad thoughts kick in, I keep busy by seeking out my friends and family, working, hunting, going for drivers, helping others and getting involved with the Cirqiniq family,” said Gerard Airo-Mesher, in another post.

Like many of his colleagues and friends, Salluit youth Larry Thomassiah admits to daily struggles, “…but it is never too late to improve ourselves, to be happy again,” he wrote in his profile post.

“I’ve been through a lot, good times and bad,” wrote Uttuqi Tukkiapik in her own post, “but nothing in life is permanent, even the storm eventually ends.”

Reach Out also features video message of encouragement from well-known role models, such as Buddha from Blue Print for Life, Inuk doctor Donna May Kimmaliardjuk and Inukjuak athlete Deseray Cumberbatch.

“Now [those messages have] reached thousands and thousands of people,” Lock said. “Hopefully this crisis will end.”

Nunavimmiut youth who are having thoughts of suicide and need someone to talk to can speak to a health care professional by calling their local CLSC clinic at -9090.

Support is available to residents of Nunavik and Nunavut in both English and Inuktitut, 24 hours a day, by calling the Kamatsiaqtut help line at 1-800-265-3333.

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anywhere in Canada at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English-language support. French-speakers can call 1-866-APPELLE (277-3553.)

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