Embrace Life Council: believe in the possible

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The Embrace Life Council is responding to the complex issue of suicide recently addressed by your media.

While we appreciate the press continuing to bring the issue of suicide to the public eye, including noting the government’s responsibility, we also stress the importance of individuals, families and communities all taking fair and reasonable responsibilities to help ensure we are all given the opportunity to best cope with life challenges.

Governments are expected to see the invisible and do the impossible, on a regular basis. Without taking away the government’s responsibility, it is important to note that we as citizens need to do our part.

Suicide prevention cannot be seen only as the government’s responsibility, nor can it be addressed in isolation and it cannot be done to people. Effective suicide prevention can happen, and likely soonest where there is a context and culture of collaboration, cooperation and where the solutions are also viewed as a community, family and individual’s responsibility.

The issue of Nunavut not having a suicide prevention strategy is an issue of concern. Embrace Life will be supportive of our government as it continues to develop a realistic strategy, and which reflects the many issues that were brought out in your editorial.

We also believe that a suicide prevention strategy is only one piece of a solution towards reducing suicides in Nunavut. We have collaborated and consulted with youth, elders, and concerned adults across the communities of Nunavut. We found citizens expressing that providing them with actual tools and resources to support their communities, including their wellness committees, elders, youth and interagency groups is a beneficial and welcomed means of encouraging and supporting health in their community, and to develop and sustain this essential expertise.

While our high rates of suicide make it appear that not enough has been done in the area of suicide prevention across Nunavut, there have been accomplishments. Nunavut has taken a lead role in Canada in taking a life affirming approach to addressing suicide. The creation of the Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council is a confirmation of this approach.

Rather than asking people how they have been impacted by suicides, numerous workshops and discussion on what embracing life means to individuals, youth, adults and caregivers have occurred, including what can be done to help others at risk to realize the value of their own life.

The existence of Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council is testament that communication and collaboration on this emotional and powerful issue remains desired and possible. The Embrace Life Council consists of 11 board members who represent agencies from community, regional and Nunavut wide organizations.

Their involvement in the ultimate creation of a suicide prevention strategy will be one important step in ensuring that the strategy is viewed as inclusive, representative, and that it will be implemented meaningfully across our territory.

Embrace Life is not a political organization and all our members are by no means unanimous in their views, skills and background. We express a wide range of opinions, perspectives, skills, and strengths. We believe this diversity makes us stronger partners with a common set of goals, and with many different ways of attaining them.

“Pretty posters and amateur TV commercials” are not enough to address the suicide issue across Nunavut. We also agree that addressing the graduation and success rates in our school system, providing more information and resources on responsible drinking and the negative effects of addictions, addressing the issues and impacts of mental health and sexual abuse are all important aspects that must be included in the strategy.

We also know that there are other complex issues including overcrowded housing, the intergenerational impacts of residential schooling, and the dramatic impact of enforced change on our predominately Inuit population.

One obvious question is whether we don’t already recognize these factors, and why aren’t there already strategies, policies and procedures in place to alleviate, mitigate and resolve them? Is another governmental strategy going to affirm and address what we likely already know and believe needs to be accomplished?

It is Embrace Life’s mandate and belief that many Nunavummiut are currently leading productive and fulfilling lives. Others are overcoming major issues including societal, linguistic, faith and changes in governance. Many Nunavummiut are getting educated and employed, while maintaining cultural values despite all our societal changes.

Embrace Life continues to believe and suggest that owning the solutions to our life challenges will make the biggest impact on our own lives and the future opportunities for our children and youth.

This belief includes recognition that it is not simple to own or change many situations that include neglect, dysfunction, and a lack of resources. This is where a strategy needs to come in: to address these issues and provide resources to tackle them in a meaningful, realistic fashion so that suicide becomes less likely to occur – a job we realize much easier said than done, but still must be accomplished.

Now is a time in Nunavut’s history for Nunavummiut visionaries to step forward collaboratively and answer the call for a better tomorrow. There have been many who in past times dared to make a difference. “I have a dream!” declared Martin Luther King – and then he went to work to make that dream a reality.

Noted strategist Joel Barker said it best: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

It’s equally true that what is so painfully simple and true is equally painfully difficult to embrace and enact. While it is likely easiest to note the negatives, and also important to recognize the need for change, we remain believers in the possible.

Sheila Levy
Embrace Life Council

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