Project aimed towards Inuit youth mental health gets funding boost
Goal is to create virtual resources to help manage negative emotions
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.
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.