Suicide prevention in Nunavut: Qikiqtarjuaq walkers show they care
“They were walking to show their love to Nunavummiut, especially Pangnirtung people”
People in Qikiqtarjuaq, who say they support suicide prevention efforts, want other communities in Nunavut to know that they are there for them when suicides take place.
That’s why 15 people from the north Baffin community participated in 50-kilometre walk last weekend that began north of the community and lasted three days, Qikiqtarjuaq resident Morris Kuniliusee said.
The walk, which meant trudging through a lot of soft, melting snow, started May 25 and ended May 27, when the walkers arrived in Qikiqtarjuaq.
There, they were greeted by many people, including the hamlet’s volunteer firefighters, who stood on the shoreline watching for them.
Shortly after their arrival, the walkers went to the community centre, where 500 people gathered to see them.
Most of the walkers were teenagers, but the youngest walker was a 10-year old girl, and the oldest a 57-year-old woman.
During the three-day walk, two women carried babies in their amautiks, Kuniliusee said.
“They were walking to show their love to Nunavummiut, especially Pangnirtung people, to show friendship and healing and to prevent suicide,” Kuniliusee said.
Pangnirtung recently witnessed the death by suicide of a girl, 13, followed by the death of her grandmother, who killed herself in the community May 22.
The suicide prevention walks in Qikiqtarjuaq used to take place every spring during the 1990’s, but that hadn’t happened in recent years, Kuniliusee said.
This year’s participants “were very happy and they didn’t want to give up, they had some burns on their faces and sore muscles, but they wanted to continue and finish the walk. Everyone made it,” he said.
Once the group reached the Qikiqtarjuaq community centre, there were speeches by some of the participants. A community feast was held the next day, May 28.
“It’s always a good feeling when they arrive, and everybody was looking forward to their arrival and the feeling was always great — it was the same as it used to be before,” he said.
“They were all happy, most of the time on their way here,” Kuniliusee added.
Because of past clusters of suicides in Qikiqtarjuaq, as in some other Nunavut communities, people were “thinking about other Nunavut communities to show they care.”
“There used to be suicide here too in the past, but in the last few decades there hasn’t been [as many],” Kuniliusee said.
“The walk has helped this community in a big way,” he said.