York University professor Yvonne Bohr, consultant Chelsea Singoorie and the Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council will work with youth leaders and community elders in Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Pangnirtung, Arctic Bay and other hamlets to design digital activities, e-games and immersive virtual reality. (Image courtesy of Yvonne Bohr)

Project aimed towards Inuit youth mental health gets funding boost

Goal is to create virtual resources to help manage negative emotions

By Meral Jamal

A project that aims to improve the mental health of Inuit youth has received about $1.7 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Its title is a lengthy one — Inuit Youth Develop a Virtual Qaqqiq: Using Technology and Cultural Knowledge to Support Resilience Outside the (Digital) Box.

The goal is to build virtual resources and tools that will improve the mental wellness of Inuit youth across Nunavut.

The funding will be allocated over four years.

The project leaders will work with youth leaders and community elders in Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Pangnirtung, Arctic Bay and other hamlets to design digital activities, e-games and immersive virtual reality based on Inuit traditional knowledge and Qaggiq philosophy, which is a theory of Inuktut knowledge renewal.

I-SPARX is an Inuit-specific video game that teaches young people how to change their negative thoughts. (Image courtesy of I-SPARX)

Project leaders are Yvonne Bohr, a professor at York University in Toronto, consultant Chelsea Singoorie, and the Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council.

“We know that certain activities help with regulating emotion. They help with examining your thoughts when your thoughts become too negative, and they help with problem-solving,” Bohr said.

“So we’re very interested in developing tools that are specifically going to be helpful and supportive in building resilience for Inuit youth.”

The goal is to reduce anxiety, boredom, depression and hopelessness, many of which lead to the development of mental health struggles and self-harm.

Bohr said the tools will also build inner strength among Inuit youth.

The team previously worked on I-SPARX, an Inuit-specific video game that teaches young people to change their negative thoughts to more supportive, balanced ones.

For Singoorie, a critical component involves engaging youth by through technology.

“We’re bringing technological tools and addressing gaps that are currently in the communities in a way that could be used as a pathway to improving overall community wellness,” she said.

“We found that building a sense of connection with youth in Nunavut [through technology] has been really great in terms of participation.”

The team is in the process of submitting its project proposal to the Nunavut Research Institute for review and will begin engaging with communities across the territory after it’s approved.

Share This Story

(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Not a Luddite on

    Techno-idealism is an emerging marker of our age. Through it we hope and expect to see the preservation and enhancement of culture and our flourishing in the world.

    In its early days similar optimism marked the emergence of social media. During the Arab Spring, for example, Twitter was heralded as a transformative, democratic force, leveling the structures of power and so on. There was truth to that, but the same medium has also proved its corrosive and distorting effects on culture and democracy as well.

    Is a well meaning and nicely presented e-game along with space in a virtual world, draped in the finery of our leading intellectual fashions around ‘knowledge renewal’ and tradition really a serious way to address these issues?

    Having little familiarity with these kinds of tools I can not say. But I do think that creating real human connections, purpose, and sense of belonging among our youth are the most important factors in the development and maintenance of their mental health and beyond, toward their flourishing in the world.

    So, is our reliance and faith in these kinds of technologies well placed, or is it utopian and idealistic, hopelessly removed from the human connection and the world it means to ‘virtually’ create?

    • Posted by No Nonsense Larry on

      @NotALuddite do you have projects on the go that could potentially help improve wellness in Nunavut? Knocking this article down seems easy to do when you have nothing constructive to bring to the table.

      Congratulations to the youth who have worked hard to see projects like this come to realization in Nunavut! Bravo!

      • Posted by Not a Luddite on

        Hi Larry;

        I would say that a well placed criticism can be constructive; and if you’ll read again you will see I did offer some ideas.

        That aside, it is hard to discern a substantive point to your comment, besides your dislike of ‘criticism.’ I’d be more curious to hear what you think I got wrong, besides the fact that I said anything at all.

        Do you honestly think a person needs to have a project of their own in order to legitimately notice and point out issues with something?

        • Posted by No Nonsense Larry on

          Your lacklustre comparisons are hardly constructive criticisms, they sound more like complaining that the status quo isn’t being upheld to your liking.

          Your suggestion that this project would seek to replace real human connection is a weak suggestion to say the least.

          I personally think this article is a breath of fresh air and I’m excited to follow along.

          Positivity goes a long way @NotALuddite.

          • Posted by Not a Luddite on

            The problem, as I see it, is that the online ‘virtual world’ is a poor proxy for real life. Online interactions are most often one dimensional and can never really compare in quality to the kinds of face to face human interactions we need if we want to maintain good mental health. There are countless studies that support this point.

            So, you cheer if you want, I’m skeptical that this will be as effective as you imagine it will. My skepticism has nothing to do with a preference for the ‘status quo’ (what a strange thing to say).

  2. Posted by Maq-Pat on

    Feeling the need to reference “Spence Bay” in their material (renamed Taloyoak in ’92) seriously what millennia are we in?!?

    • Posted by Center of the world on

      The kids who designed this are from Toronto.

      • Posted by Maq-Pat on

        These are all Inuit communities, they all have the names their overwhelmingly Inuit citizenry choose for them. Yes, some names have a more colonial history and some are traditional names, but each community has the name its people choose. I guess what I don’t like is the graphic overruling that. “Spence Bay” in particular is a trivia tidbit, it just sits wrong put on the same level as Cambridge Bay and Baker Lake which are the chosen names of people’s homes.

        I appreciate this discussion is complicated by Kinngait’s relatively recent name change, but I think we can just drop the Dorset references already. Pond is probably the hardest because Mittimatalik is in really common usage and most would expect that the name change is coming soon. However, I think that decision can only come from the community, not Iqaluit, not Toronto.

        Generously, I’ll assume the decision to ignore the communities’ chosen names was made by the youth leaders from each community and not from an ivory tower. Overall, I’m optimistic about the project: Engaging external support to help afford Inuit youth access to the mental health tools they want is laudable.

  3. Posted by Inukman on

    I hope young Inuit men will get more support and help, there is too much suicides and majority of the suicides are young men.
    This a a great start and we need more projects and funding to becoming a healthy society.

Comments are closed.