On July 27, Inuit
Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and Health Canada released the National
Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy (NISPS). This is a monumental event in
the fight against suicide, and we applaud ITK and all those involved in
developing this strategy!
aims to address suicide by:
on nurturing healthy Inuit children from birth
mental wellness services easily accessible
unresolved trauma and grief
Inuit culture and knowledge for resilience and suicide prevention
The goals of
the strategy strongly align with the research, which tells us that cultural
connection helps people maintain a sense of community and self-worth, reducing
the risk of suicide. A healthy childhood is also essential, as healthy children
often grow up to be healthy adults, both mentally and physically. Easy access
to mental health services is extremely important: if services are easy to access,
people will be less likely to feel stigma, and reach the point of suicidal
strategy involves both the ITK and Health Canada, and is a
well-coordinated, multi-pronged, national suicide prevention strategy that has
the potential to ultimately lower rates of suicide. It will encourage
community service providers, policy makers, and governments to partner together
to help reduce the rate of suicide among Inuit.
Why is a
suicide prevention strategy needed?
Inuit communities have experienced high rates of suicide since the mid-1980s
(Stevenson, 1996). However, not all Inuit communities are affected. For example,
the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions in Nunavut have not experienced high rates of suicide (Hicks, 2013).
fact that not all Inuit communities experience high rates, suicide continues to
be a huge issue among Inuit, with rates 10 times the national average. In
2009-2013, suicide rates ranged from 60 per 100,000 to 275 per 100,000.
Why do Inuit
communities experience high rates of suicide?
The effects of colonialization and policies of the federal government—forced
relocation, suppression of Inuit language and culture, residential school
experiences—caused historical trauma (passing from generation to generation). This
trauma often accompanies conditions like inadequate housing, poverty, drug and
alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and physical or sexual abuse. These conditions
have created environments of despair where suicide is often seen as a viable
strategy just for Inuit in Nunavut?
No, this strategy spans across the 4 Inuit regions of Canada which includes
Nunavut but also Inuvialuit in the Northwest Territories, Nunavik in Northern
Quebec and Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador. These regions are known
collectively as Inuit Nunangat.
Who is ITK?
ITK is the national representational organization for Canada’s 60,000 Inuit and
this strategy is meant to coordinate and integrate suicide prevention efforts
at the national, regional, and community levels.
Health Canada will invest $9 million over a 3-year period (out of $69 million
earmarked for Indigenous mental health in generally) to provide support of
additional front-line services, early childhood development programs, and Inuit-led
leaders are hopeful these efforts may also influence a national suicide
prevention strategy for Canada as a whole, as Canada remains the only G-8
country without a national strategy.
strategy is a huge step forward for the mental wellness of the Inuit of Canada
and for suicide prevention efforts nation-wide.
Bjeerregaard, P., & Berman, M. (2013). The transition from the historical
Inuit suicide pattern to the present Inuit suicide pattern. In Aboriginal Policy Research: Moving forward,
making a difference. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.
M. (1996). Inuit suicide and economic
reality. Report prepared for the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada.
Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide:
A global imperative. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/world_report_2014/en/