Groups across Inuit Nunangat use digital tools to embrace life

World Suicide Prevention Day features many virtual activities

“We must recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business,” Crystal Martin-Lapenskie, the president of the National Inuit Youth Council, said today in an online event marking World Suicide Prevention Day. (Screen capture)

By Jim Bell

Despite the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, groups across Inuit Nunangat are using digital tools today, on September 10, to safely mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

“Although we are not together in person, we are united in our communities to get greater understanding of what we all can do to prevent suicide,” Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said in a live Facebook video event organized by the National Inuit Youth Council.

Obed said ITK and its partners—which include territorial and provincial governments, and regional Inuit organizations—continue to work on the implementation of ITK’s National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Though he admitted that “it’s not always quick progress,” Obed said some headway has been made in advancing the strategy’s six priorities: reducing social inequity, creating cultural continuity, nurturing healthy children, healing unresolved grief and trauma, ensuring a continuum of mental health care and mobilizing Inuit knowledge.

“We are in crisis and we need support,” Obed said.

Crystal Martin-Lapenskie, president of the NIYC, said World Suicide Prevention Day is a good time to reflect on how people can advocate for better services throughout Inuit Nunangat.

“Every single one of us has likely experienced the tremendous loss of a loved one.… We must recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business,” she said in her online speech.

During the same online video event, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said people throughout the Arctic struggle with the same burdens.

“When we look at the entirety of Inuit Nunangat and Nunavut we know that oftentimes we face similar challenges, whether it’s violence, whether its suicide, whether its struggling to feed yourselves, and/or your family,” she said.

At the same time, she expressed her oft-repeated message: that the federal government should be held accountable for failures to acknowledge what she calls basic human rights, such as rights to clean water, housing, economic opportunities and daycare spaces.

The NIYC Facebook event also included throat-singing and electro-pop performances by Piqsiq, and Silla and Rise.

That video event, which was shortened by technical problems, is available here.

Meanwhile, in Iqaluit, the Nunavut Embrace Life Council is holding a virtual concert by posting Facebook videos of musical performances from local artists like Geena Veevee and Sienna Dyer Dunphy, Mathew Nuqingaq, MisterLee Cloutier-Ellsworth, Sam Tutannuak and Aasiva (Colleen Nakashuk).

You can view the virtual concert, which ends at 6 p.m. today, by going to this link.

Also, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Health Minister George Hickes released a joint statement:

“Mental health is just as important as physical health. We encourage all Nunavummiut to find time to practise self-care and positive coping skills. Every day is an opportunity to foster positive mental health and well-being, and to help support a healing journey—either your own or that of someone you love,” they said.

And in Nunavik the regional health board and the Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention are sponsoring an online performance by the Twin Flames.

You can find more information about that performance here.

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