Nunavut suicide prevention summit lays groundwork for action plan

“What can we do in five years realistically and completely”


Mike Jeffrey, commanding officer of Nunavut's

Mike Jeffrey, commanding officer of Nunavut’s “V” division of the RCMP; Karen Kabloona, the associate deputy minister of quality of life at the Government of Nunavut; David Lawson, chair of Embrace Life; and James Eetoolook, vice president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Partners in Nunavut’s suicide prevention plan say they want measurable results from a new long-term action plan, after consulting with stakeholders at a suicide prevention summit held in Iqaluit from May 4 to May 6.

The group, rebranded as Atausiuqatigiingniq Inuusirmi or “United For Life,” is a partnership between the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the RCMP and the Embrace Life Council, whose goal is to reduce suicide in the territory.

The group’s previous action plan, released in 2011, crumbled under scrutiny during a special coroner’s inquest into suicide in Nunavut, held in September 2015 in Iqaluit.

Shortly after, in October, the GN declared suicide in Nunavut “a crisis.”

“I think there was a lot of stuff in the previous action plan that wasn’t completely measurable and wasn’t realistic to do in that time frame,” RCMP media spokesperson David Lawson told media at the summit’s conclusion May 6.

“So what we’re looking to bring forward now, is what can we do in five years realistically and completely.”

More than 100 participants from across Nunavut visited Iqaluit for the summit. They participated in workshops and discussed the territory’s alarming suicide rate.

“We learned a lot at the workshops,” said NTI vice president James Eetoolook, who participated in the summit.

“[We learned] what to do in the future when we draw up the action plan. People have a lot of ideas. It gave us very good information about preventing a suicide, when we compile it together it can create a good strategy.”

By holding the summit, the group fulfilled one of the more than 30 recommendations made by special coroner’s inquest jury.

In the future, the group said it will gather the ideas brought to the summit and present that information back to stakeholders.

“That’s our next immediate step and from there, we’ll be working on the long-term action plan,” said Karen Kabloona, the GN’s associate deputy minister for quality of life.

Real empirical data, said Kabloona, is crucial to the success of the new comprehensive suicide prevention action plan.

“Some of the things are developing now, the RCMP is collecting data,” Kabloona said.

Later this year, the GN will introduce a mental health epidemiologist tasked with analyzing the patterns, causes and effects of suicide, Kabloona said.

That includes the prevalence of depression in Nunavut, trauma, medication and existing mental illnesses which can influence suicidal thoughts.

“They will be compiling a lot of the data we need for a long term evaluation,” she said.

The complexity of Nunavut’s suicide crises cannot be underestimated, said Nunavut RCMP commanding officer Mike Jeffrey.

“Its not just one causal factor, it’s a lot of things that come to play,” he said.

“It’s a very complex issue, and its not just for Nunavut, its all over the world that they have this issue and its not something that can be fixed very easily and its not something where you can point just to one thing.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed or distressed, you can call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line at 1-867-979-3333 24-hours a day, in Iqaluit, or, toll-free, from Nunavik or Nunavut, at 1-800-265-3333.

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