Kitikmeot tour a success for men’s suicide-prevention program
‘They were in full support of what we were doing,’ says organizer; Atii Angutiit has now gone to all regions of Nunavut
In its tour through the Kitikmeot region, the men’s suicide prevention program called Atii Angutiit was so well received that communities are already asking for the group to come back, says Sam Tutanuak, senior adviser with the Department of Health.
“They loved it,” Tutanuak said.
“They were in full support of what we are doing.”
Atii Angutiit works to help men in Nunavut communities interact more with each other, as a way to hopefully reduce suicide rates among the male population.
Men often have difficulty discussing their emotions, Tutanuak said, so allowing them to talk while they do traditional activities together helps them to open up.
Generally, the suicide rate in Inuit communities is believed to be about 25 times higher than the rest of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed said last year.
For Atii Angutiit, activities have included qamutiik-building and musical performances. Tutanuak is an organizer and musical performer with the program.
Since late January the tour has made two-day stops in Cambridge Bay, Kugaaruk and Gjoa Haven, and also stopped for a day in Kugluktuk on Feb. 6.
It couldn’t be delivered in Taloyoak, though, because the program crew could not fly into the community due to bad weather, Tatunuak said.
Atii Angutiit events have previously been held in the Kivalliq and Baffin regions also.
For the Kitikmeot tour, Atii Angutiit performers included Arviat-based musicians Jacob Okatsiak and Agaaqtoq, as well as Tatunuak.
Tatunuak said Okatsiak had a strong following among the younger crowd, Agaaqtoq appealed to the 25- to 35-year-olds, and Tatunuak himself played to others who were older.
“It was so awesome to see people singing with all three of us,” he said of when each artist performed.
In Gjoa Haven, the crowd chanted ‘Let’s go Jacob’ and clapped their hands for Okatsiak when he performed, Tatunuak added.
“That was a new experience,” he said.
There are challenges to taking this program across Nunavut.
For staffing, Tatunuak said he needs to ensure staff such as musicians and psychologists can go on the tour. On top of that, the weather needs to be mild enough to allow the plane to land, and community halls and accommodations need to be booked in advance.
As an example, the Atii Angutiit program was supposed to go to Coral Harbour after the Kitikmeot tour, but couldn’t because there were not enough available accommodations in the community, Tatunuak said.
He said it was the third time the program had tried to go to Coral Harbour.
“There’s a lot of things behind the scenes that we need to make sure are covered,” Tatunuak said.
Even with those challenges, Tatunuak said the aim is to make sure Atii Angutiit still makes it to the communities the group was unable to reach, which were Taloyoak and Coral Harbour as well as Clyde River.