‘Stopgap’ measures needed to prevent suicide, National Inuit Youth Council president says

Brian Pottle says accessing mental health care is a costly barrier to Inuit

National Inuit Youth Council president Brian Pottle, left, speaks at an event prior to World Suicide Prevention Day on Parliament Hill. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“Stopgap” measures are needed in the short term to prevent suicides in Inuit communities, says the president of the National Inuit Youth Council.

Brian Pottle delivered his call to action on Parliament Hill in Ottawa during a gathering Friday, prior to World Suicide Prevention Day which takes place every year on Sept. 10.

“A readily realizable stopgap, for example, could be a measure to increase or create subsidized mental wellness travel as well as subsidized mental wellness accommodation,” said Pottle, who has been president of the council since July 2021.

“Creative, practical solutions to address hopelessness are at our fingertips.”

Suicide in Inuit communities is an issue that hits close to home for Pottle, who is originally from Nunatsiavut, and many others. His younger brother, Dylan, died by suicide in 2014.

According to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, communities in Inuit Nunangat have suicide rates that range from five to 25 times higher than the rate in Canada as a whole.

Pottle said he wants to see some temporary or measures that could be instituted quickly, available to all Inuit so others don’t have to experience the loss he did.

“Perhaps, with subsidized mental wellness travel … he could have still influenced his future and not have resigned himself to his despair in that final, undoable way,” he said.

Pottle said giving young people a sense of hope is key to preventing suicide. After all, he said, hope is what got him through the loss of his brother.

“I want us to work towards lighting the qulliq of hope for our Inuit youth because the longer we wait, the fewer youth we have in our communities, the fewer youth we have to pass on traditions and culture, and the fewer future leaders we have to drive change,” Pottle said.

A qulliq was present for Friday’s gathering on Parliament Hill.

Reepa Evic-Carleton, an elder from Pangnirtung who lives in the Ottawa area, was there to light and tend to the qulliq. She wanted to offer a message of hope about how Inuit communities can help each other to heal from trauma and thrive.

“There’s lots of good ways we can learn from listening, teachings, and the wisdom of the elders,” Evic-Carleton said.

“We need to become more proud of who we are as people and where we come from.”

Here are resources for people in distress who need to talk to someone:

Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is Nunavut-specific and offers services in Inuktitut. Phone: 979-3333 for Iqaluit residents and 1-800-265-3333 for other Nunavummiut.

 The First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline: 1-855-242-3310 or chat online at hopeforwellness.ca.



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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by iThink on

    Big hat tip to you Brian for coming up with something tangible, creative and thought provoking. Your idea definitely warrants discussion.

    Good job.

    • Posted by What’s wrong with creativity? on

      The problem with creativity is it often emphasizes the person rather than the action of the creativity itself. Now, all credit due to where it belongs, I’m for that , but too often we’re not looking anywhere beyond the creator of an idea. We get a brown lipped, while not really analyzing what the idea is. Too much of nothingness has been on the resume for too long, for having any belief in an idea that’s going to benefit people suffering under the mental illness which involves suicidal outcomes. I’m not going to knock down the creator, but I’m not going to credit the many others either who would and should take action, and will not. This is just a guess and guess again , try again phenomenal that’s part of the problem. I suggest start by getting rid of the bull, and work within the communities to seek health and wellness to kids as early as possible. Make these goals a priority. Education , and second to that more education. Drugs, alcohol, and child abuse must be on all agendas. And stop blaming.

      • Posted by iThink on

        Of course we should always judge an idea based on the qualities it presents us. ‘Creativity,’ in a case like this is obviously not a virtue if it doesn’t connect with the problem in a meaningful way. I think this idea does that, and it does so in a way that seems so obvious it is a wonder it hasn’t been brought up before. That, as I see it, is a wee touch of genius.

  2. Posted by Mental wellness travel and accommodations? on

    What’s the meaning of mental wellness travel and accommodations? What is it ? If I infer that it means travel out of the community and access to accommodations with a subsidy, what’s the goal in terms of suicide prevention and well being ?

    • Posted by Because this on

      The goal is to remove people and give them a break from the toxic environments in which they may feel trapped, the feeling of being trapped itself being an impetus to cease existence altogether.

      • Posted by Traveling wellness on

        I’m sure traveling has its benefits, but not everyone wants or needs to travel. That being said , go ahead let people travel. But just remember, to connect to other research out there that shows how this idea is worth anything. I hope it’s not just another off the radar funded program that does absolutely nothing. Show your practical, not just the theory. Come back to the news after something solid is in the outcome. And allow your idea to be analyzed by procedures like all applied treatment to the mentally ill. This is people lives, nothing to play around with. And what’s the background of the creator of such ideas? Don’t forget while removing the people to give them a break from their environment, yes, but plan also to fix that environment which they exist in.

        • Posted by Test the Hypothesis on

          Fair points, but to show the ‘practical’ and not merely the theory (or, hypothesis) it needs to be tested. Which is to say, we need to try it and measure the results.

          You ask: “And what’s the background of the creator of such ideas?”

          What does it matter? We should be able to asses the quality of an idea based on its merits alone, not it’s origin (consider the genetic fallacy).

          • Posted by Hypothetically on

            Yes, the proof must be in the pudding so to say. And yes an idea from anyone really is good as goodness as can be. Someone prescribing or recommending even a treatment thou, and the cost from public funding, or even private fund, usually demands or ethically too, a qualified degree at least in acceptable among peers and qualified others to make this idea stand well in the market place. It can’t be just a random idea that takes off under the radar, and comes to a dead end. That’s our past, are we just doing the same old under different names or are we challenging theses ideas?

  3. Posted by Shawn on

    “Better housing is the correct answer for suicide prevention” the news agency classified.

    • Posted by More house needed on

      Yes Shawn I agree housing needed. But equally important, maybe more important, people in the houses need to address the issues that they live by, looking first at what’s in control of the individual and family, community collectively. Some things not in people control. Such as changing the past. That’s not possible. But what is possible, as least I think it is, is the decision to not pass on the trauma. We need to get over the notion that somehow the perpetrators are going to provide healing, that’s not going to happen. Apologies too, are superficial and if people believe that apology does something good, then believe it, but it’s just thinking along magical lines, and power of belief that it helps. The real healing starts with people taken control themselves and doing it , no ands if , or buts. This is our own life.

  4. Posted by Nunavut Inuit on

    Mental wellness travel? Not sure if they subsidize medical travel in Nunatsiavut but in Nunavut medical travel is a huge cost, imagine going health centre to get a ticket and hotel booked for your mental wellness travel, feeling sad because of intergeneration trauma? Here is a free trip to Vegas lol.. What a joke! Something tangible is working directly with communities on community led initiatives! Housing, would be great!

    • Posted by iThink on

      “Something tangible is working directly with communities on community led initiatives”

      In reality that’s an empty phrase that pretends like it is saying something meaningful, but is completely void of content. In fact, it is a bit like a magical incantation – “work with the communities” and *POOF*

      Work with the communities and do what? What ‘tangible’ action it might lead to? Translate that into an actual thing that might follow that would would help reduce and prevent suicide? And while we are at at, maybe you tell us why that ‘tangible’ action has never been thought of or done before?

      • Posted by Vacation time on

        Go on paid vacation. Will this be paid for by WHO? Will a prescription be needed? Who qualifies? Who will assess whether a person is diagnosed and thereby prescribed that treatment? What about if someone , like many, don’t find travel away from their home a necessary part of their life? My grandmother for example never travelled out of her small community, save for a few trips for medical, and she lived in good health for 90 years? What about people like her, but say they would have more anxiety anyway for going to foreign areas. What aspects of not traveling did my grandmother have for her health, that others with mental illness could otherwise benefit from via the travel? Or is this idea saying that travel is innate, or somehow attached to health and well-being and it universally better for all people? I would like to hear about this idea in that context.

      • Posted by Nunavut Inuit on

        Communities are rich in capacity and have very limited infrastructure/resources to access large pots of funding that would potentially go to “travelling wellness funding”. ITK should be advocating that communities gain tools, infrastructure, and resources need to stop just surviving but to thrive! What about self-determination, self-reliance and self-government, communities have that right too! Community led isn’t a pitch word, it is attainable, there are many examples of that today, it’s just not as easy of a fix as throwing millions of dollars to travel in order to ‘stopgap’ suicide. Community-led means building relationships, taking time to provide information/training opportunities, working directly with the community in moving their vision forward, so no it’s not a pitch word, it’s actually an evidence based model of working with Indigenous peoples across the globe! You know… science?

  5. Posted by Get with reality on

    Let’s say that the ideas here are of benefit to mental well being, and I think it can be so; but it’s not a fix it up for suicide crisis as we are living with. It’s like a bandage that helps for a while, which is ok, and even the proposal indicates that. Like short term, and needed now. I’ll argue with that, in that there’s many less costly short term stop gaps. Sports, going on the land, traditional awareness programs, just to name a few. Travel is very costly, and it’s a little like running away, in regards to facing it now, not after, but let’s not get too grumpy about any of the ideas and suggestions. But let’s get real about something. The trauma continues to be passed on to the younger ones, as by a defence argument at least, when we discuss suicide. What right do anyone have to pass down their trauma to their kids. Someone mention, learning from elders. Stop and think for a moment, what’s learnt from elders is how to remain in the illness of trauma. Sit down in your collective communities and admit the issues, and start living , not just existing.

  6. Posted by Inuit life today on

    Inuit life today has become a program of living it out against the past. There’s no doubt that some terrible things has occurred. But it goes on and on living in the past. There must be a better way to get the objectives of living come to a present day reality. Even people that have worked it out and are trying to go on, are overwhelmed by groups that live only in the past. I think it’s got a life of its own, it’s a past tense life. No present, no future , other than the past domination of it all. Suicide has to be connected to that kind of perspective, it’s horrible to live out a life of now, only experiencing the ways of the past. Traumatized. What’s even more degrading is the way the funders of theses programs has attached onto the wind and made it worse. Instead of getting real help, Inuit are victims again by the enhancement of programs that do nothing but keep the status quo. So there’s two players in the game: the Inuit that keeps the past in their existence as life, and the non Inuit that we see going around, profiting even from developing programs to keep the past alive. This is sickness. People need to on in this life, and start developing a future program that takes all that is positive from the past. Using that energy will surely give meaning to it all, especially the present. This is not simple, but it’s obtainable.

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