Letter: ‘Please don’t turn off your light’

Iqaluit family pays tribute to son, encourages others to seek help for mental health issues

A family portrait taken in December 2014 of Jeela and Stéphane Palluq-Cloutier and their children (from left to right), Judah Qajaaq, Leo Inuksuk, Simon Atagoyuk and Xavier Inuluk. (Photo courtesy of Jeela and Stéphane Palluq-Cloutier)

By Jeela and Stéphane Palluq-Cloutier
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Open letter to Nunatsiaq News

We write this letter with great sorrow. The feelings of deep distress, pain, sadness and regret of losing our son to suicide are felt to this day. Our son left us on September 13, 2020. It feels as if time froze and we are still living with the pain.

His name was Simon Atagoyuk. He was born in Iqaluit on January 7, 1991. He was also Nasuk, Inuaraq, Savviuqtalik, Kitturiaq, Miluqtittuq and Siipa.

Our son was most handsome and beautiful in person and in spirit. He was very talented in music. He had a boisterous personality but was very caring. He had plans and dreams. He wanted to start a band. He wanted to travel the world. He cared about his parents and siblings. He cared about his friends.

Simon Atagoyuk was dealing with mental health issues when he took his own life in September 2020. His parents are trying to raise awareness of mental health supports while still coming to terms with their own grief. (Photo courtesy of Jeela and Stéphane Palluq-Cloutier)

He was also battling childhood trauma and addictions. He was trying to deal with his emotional and mental health issues. He was reaching out. He was accessing mental health services. He was seeing a local counsellor. He was making some progress. Or so we thought. He was 29 years old when he decided to turn the light of his life off.

While we are learning to become survivors of suicide loss, we continue to hear more about suicides in Nunavut. It leaves us wondering if the numbers have gone up during or because of the pandemic. We hate to think of our son as a statistic. These statistics may continue to rise if we do not reach out and help each other during the very trying times of restrictions and isolations.

There are free mental services available over the phone and online. For government employees, counsellors are also available through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.  My husband and I made use of this program. It does help.

In our recovery journey, we also learned about a welcomed change at the Iqaluit mental health clinic. Starting in February, they now accept same day appointment three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  I called in the morning to book an appointment. I saw a counsellor right away in the afternoon.

We also learned that support is available under the federal Non-Insured-Health-Benefit Program. While this may be little known by the general public, this program covers up to 22 hours of mental health counselling a year. We’re relieved that GN can now assist individuals to access this resource. Simply email healing@gov.nu.ca.

We are never prepared to lose a child, or any loved one for that matter, especially not to suicide. As painful as your life may be, please don’t turn off your light. Please reach out. And as a parent or a friend, we are by your side and we can learn more about available resources that can help us.

Parents of Simon,
Jeela and Stéphane Palluq-Cloutier


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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    deepest condolences to your Family.

    too many of us throughout the North know the pain of suicide. we have lost too much family to this tragic situation.

    nothing I can say will ease your pain. but know we understand, grieve, sympathize hope one day the tears of pain will mix with tear of happy memories of loved ones gone too soon.

  2. Posted by Timiusie on

    One suicide is one too many. Naglingnaqpusi.
    I lost my younger brother to suicide five years ago. There are no words to describe the feeling. My deepest condolences

  3. Posted by Sharon Windeyer on

    What a brave and thoughtful letter, and a beautiful tribute to one who sounded to be a beautiful soul. I too lost someone dear to suicide 45 years ago, and the pain, guilt, regret and sorrow never go away entirely. Thank you for sharing this, and for the sound helpful information contained within.

  4. Posted by Inukman on

    I am so sorry for your loss, so many of us here in Nunavut have lost a loved one to suicide, it is one of the highest rate in the world, a pandemic, but I feel very little is being done about it by our governments and organizations.
    Most of the suicides are young men, I don’t think there is enough support for our young men, we have groups, committees and boards for women which I think is great but very little for men.
    We need the same level of support for men too.
    Thank you Jeela and Stéphane for sharing your story and for letting us know about where to get help, a lot of us don’t know where to turn to and this will help.

  5. Posted by Too understanding on

    I understand the grief of a child’s suicide too damn well. It’s been a year and a half since it happened, but at times, it happened just yesterday.

    I hurt and cry for a good while, then dry up and carry on like I’m fine. I’m not.

    After he did it, I very much, stopped attending church services. Still haven’t gone back those services, even though I’d kinda stopped a while before that.

  6. Posted by Classmate on

    I went to high school with Simon. He was a skate boarding, guitar loving and thoughtful guy. He always had a smile and a laugh. I hope you Rest In Peace, man. I’ll think of you whenever Pantera or Disturbed is on. My condolences to his family.

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