Nunavut youth produce short film on suicide prevention

‘I don’t want to be heard, I want action,’ says Iqaluit high school student Blake DeMaio

From left: David Korgak, Jasmine Evic and Blake DeMaio are seen after their screening of a short film they created on suicide prevention in Nunavut. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Four young Nunavummiut have created a short film on an issue that is important to them: suicide prevention.

“We want youth to have a better future and more help,” said Blake DeMaio, one of the students in the film.

The film is called communication is key: a youth-led policy change project. The youth screened it Tuesday evening in the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre.

It focuses on recommendations that the Government of Nunavut make greater use of its Interagency Information Sharing Protocol, which is designed to help public bodies work together to prevent suicide in communities.

According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, some of the world’s highest rates of suicide are reported in Canada’s Inuit, especially youth.

The five-minute film begins with each of the four students from Inuksuk High School introducing themselves and speaking about why the protocol is important.

Those students are Jasmine Evic, Rocco Canil, Jennifer Williams and DeMaio.

In the film each student plays off each other – one student may start a sentence but another finishes it.

Creativity is also seen through the visuals, as the students talk over an inuksuk before and after it is built.

By the end of the film, they’ve outlined why suicide prevention is important, how the protocol can help and what can be done to improve how it’s used.

The film recommends categorizing government staff who work with youth as essential workers, providing housing and a signing bonus to retain staff involved with the protocol, and removing language barriers for Inuktitut-speaking staff.

“If we abide by these recommendations, we could be saving lives,” Williams says in the film.

Work on film made began when David Korgak received $5,000 from the Jane Glassco Fellowship in fall 2019 to address suicide prevention.

From there he asked a guidance counsellor at Inuksuk High School if any students wanted to be a part of the project. That’s how Evic, Canil, Williams and DeMaio joined.

Through seven sessions researching tangible ways to improve suicide, the four students found the GN protocol had the potential to be a useful tool that government departments were not using enough, Korgak said. With that, the group decided to focus the film on improving the protocol.

For example, if a department is dealing with someone suicidal who needed access to a social worker, the protocol could be a connecting mechanism to get one involved, Korgak said.

Of the four students, Evic and DeMaio were able to be at the screening. Korgak hosted the event.

Notably absent were many ministers and senior government staff associated with the protocol, who Korgak invited to the screening. That includes representatives from the departments of Health, Justice, Family Services and Education, as well as the Nunavut Housing Corp. and the RCMP.

Of those invited, only RCMP Chief Supt. Amanda Jones and Arijana Haramincic, the executive director of family services, attended.

No ministers who were invited attended.

Through spokespeople, Health Minister John Main, Education Minister Pamela Gross and Family Services Minister Margaret Nakasuk said they could not attend the screening but had to plans to watch the film or already had.

Justice Minister David Akeeagok said he was not available but hopes to see the film in the future.

Nakasuk’s spokesperson, Kerry McCluskey, said the minister has asked for a separate viewing of the film for her entire department.

The Nunavut Housing Corp. did not respond to Nunatsiaq News by deadline.

“I find it very disappointing and upsetting,” DeMaio said of the turnout, adding that even under COVID-19 protocols, there was enough space for ministers to show up.

Politicians telling Nunavummiut that youth are being heard is not enough, DeMaio said, adding, “I don’t want to be heard, I want action.”

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Phil on

    how embarrassing that GN Health had no one attend considering they have a team including epidemiologist and policy person who dedicate whole job to suicide and inter agency sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Posted by Fiery Hope on

    Blake, I have hoped for many years to help people , but so many people & highly paid
    experts are not doing their jobs and getting away it
    Some people are not paying rent, and they wreck their houses !
    Some people put drugs and alcohol first, instead of healthy lifestyle!
    Any wonder people turn to suicide ?
    So what are you going to do ? Talk Talk & more Talk ?
    One day Nunavut will sink into the North Atlantic, because of Talk !

  3. Posted by Typical on

    Maybe if the organizers had noted in the invitation that the media would have been there more politicians would have shown up. Politicians love reading and hearing thier own sound bites. I’m sure they will show up at the next big rally with cameras, where nothing happens except lip service or during their next campaign.
    Kudos for the RCMP and the ED for Family Services for showing up.

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