Nunavummiut being trained for local mental health work

Prioritizing Inuit in hiring will ensure culturally relevant care, says Health Minister John Main

Nunavut Health Minister John Main highlighted a hiring initiative by Inuusivut Mental Health and Addictions division in the legislative assembly on Monday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Nunatsiaq News

People from different backgrounds are being trained and hired as mental health workers across Nunavut to provide culturally relevant mental health supports and reduce suicide rates in the territory.

John Main, the minister of health, said the goal is to prioritize Nunavut Inuit in the hiring process.

“Ensuring paraprofessionals are trained to deliver culturally appropriate and trauma-informed care promotes positive mental health outcomes for all Nunavummiut,” Main said Monday in the legislative assembly.

Hiring paraprofessionals means people don’t necessarily need to be a fully licensed mental health practitioner to be on the team.

The initiative also includes a professional development element to give people with different experience levels the opportunity to learn and join the department.

Each community now has a mental health and addictions supervisor who will facilitate the recruitment and training of new paraprofessionals in the communities, Main said.

As of March, 19 mental health and addictions professionals have been hired through this initiative, Main said.

So far, they have run programs including sewing groups, grief support, teen group counselling, an elders tea event, and have organized local radio shows to bring awareness to mental health and addictions, he said.

Having more local supports available and more mental health interventions done in communities are among the recommendations made when Nunavut adopted the Mental Health Act last year.

Residents of Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit also rallied for more mental health supports, including more local, culturally relevant and permanent supports, last year.

If you’re experiencing emotional distress and want to talk, call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, which is Nunavut-specific and offers services in Inuktitut. The phone number is 979-3333 for Iqaluit residents and 1-800-265-3333 for other Nunavummiut.

The First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline is also available at 1-855-242-3310 or you can chat online at

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Incentive on

    Why aren’t there any scholarships for students who want to to study mental health subjects at college or university? There are specific GN scholarships for aviation, business, nursing, etc., but we need more support for our young people to become therapists, addictions supports, psychiatrists and others. This should be going hand in hand with creation of the treatment centre.

  2. Posted by Better than nothing on

    “Paraprofessionals”? No specifics are provided on how long they are trained for or by whom. I guess someone is better than no one but I really think John Main is lowering the bar: when it comes to mental health we should really have professionals, meaning university educated and members of a self governed profession, not just anyone who did a weekend counselling course.

    • Posted by Binky the Doormat on

      I’m not convinced university level education is necessary to be a good counselor, or do good effective work with addictions. Even in the south there are plenty of great counselors who are not ‘degreed’.

      That said, University training is absolutely necessary for people who work with serious mental illnesses, psychosis, etc… and that needs to be very clear in all this.

      I also agree that “on the job training” or “job shadowing” are insufficient alternatives, as is the case with any profession (case in point—management—the most abused of all in Nunavut) though they should obviously feature in a good training program.

      People who do this kind of work still need good training and education. And that is where I am concerned this scheme will prove its weakness. It is indeed hard not to see this as a more of the same, made in Nunavut solution that does ‘lower the bar’ but lowers a bar that need not be lowered at all.

      Here’s a question for the Minister. What roll do you anticipate Nunavut Arctic College to play in training a new generation of Inuit counselors? Have you spoken to Minister Gross about providing or developing a strong culturally based program for counselors?

      We talk so much about the need for training and education in Nunavut, yet it can appear we too often let NAC off the hook, ignoring their serious roll for our population.

  3. Posted by 867 on

    This seems more like an attempt to increase inuit employment numbers with people who are in no way qualified or trained for the job. I’m sorry but “on the job training” or “shadowing” a mental health worker with a degree does not prepare someone to deal with someone who is having a mental health breakdown, threatening themselves with harm or suicide. When it’s life or death, employing “para”professionals is a risky chess move. This is not much different than employing hunters and community workers in drug and alcohol treatment programs.

  4. Posted by Reality on

    Really??? Because more than 13 years ago I happened to share a wall of my apartment with someone who was NU educated as a social worker and I spent 3/5 nites a week sleeping on my GN couch because if I didn’t I would not go to work the next day because of the partying that prevented that person from going to work. Stop this! Please stop touting this pseudo education as a winning tactic. Provide real local healing so our NU people can become who they are meant to be!

    • Posted by In Reality on

      I’m sorry you experienced that, it must have been very difficult for you. At the same time, I don’t think this comment bears much relevance to this conversation.

  5. Posted by delbert on

    Mental health is like any other illness. Treatment needs to be provided by fully trained professionals. It’s not just counseling that is needed. In many cases medications are need to be prescribed to help with the illness. Why can’t our leadership understand that.Partially trained or poorly trained mental health workers. Can make a problem worse not better.
    Why are there always half bake solutions put forward to fix serious issues?
    By all means encourage Nunavummiut to go to school to become professional mental health workers. ,Or doctors, engineers, teachers, mechanics all the skills, that are needed to have a functioning society. It will take years for this to come to fruition but it will.
    But when they do go away to school make sure that those individuals receive all the financial hep they need to succeed.

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