Resilience Building with Inuit Youth in Naujaat, Canada

Author: Mary Harasym

Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide

Danish Suicide Prevention Hotline: +45 70 201 201 (Available 11-23h)

Canadian First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310 (Available 24/7)

Canada Suicide Prevention Service Hotline: 1-833-456-4566 (Available 24/7)

PIC-6-Tusarvik-School-Repulse-Bay-winter

On August 16th, I attended an event held by the Danish Research Center for Migration, Ethnicity, and Health on the topic of engaging the Inuit youth of Naujaat, in suicide prevention with Dr. Anang. University of Manitoba, Ms. Haqpi, Naujaat Elder, and Ms. Putulik, Naujaat Youth Group.

Historically, in Canada, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have been systematically mistreated and discriminated against (1). Inuit youth in Canada have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with rates 11x higher than the Canadian national average (2). However, is important to note that suicide rates vary considerably between First Nations and Inuit communities (3). Several social determinants are attributed to the higher rates of suicide, most of which are the same reasons why other people take one own’s life, plus other specific reasons that are exclusive to Inuit youth.

High rates of adverse childhood experiences can be understood as an overarching determinant of death by suicide. The first elevated rates of suicidal behaviour were those who were brought up in settled communities; where substance abuse was rising, and extreme amounts of discrimination was present (4). Trauma experienced during childhood, if unresolved was passed down to their children and grandchildren. Other social determinants are the poor health and education systems, violence, poverty, and substance abuse, and poor living conditions (4,5).

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 An aerial view of Naujaat 

Dr. Anang described that while there is some support for projects around Inuit youth suicide prevention, oftentimes the projects are not effective or sustainable. What intervention programs often lack, is the feeling of relevance among the youth. Inuit youth not often included in the creation of the intervention and thus there is a lack of interest. Anang also describes how the intervention programs are often not sustainable in the community. Often interventions are funded for a brief period, then when the funding runs out a new project is rolled out in the community.

The lack of relevance for the youth as well as the lack of sustainability create a cycle, which have minimal impact on the youth in a given community. With Dr. Anang’s project, she and her team understand sustainability as a large issue in suicide prevention interventions. Conducting participatory research for an intervention is an effective method to create a community based relevant narrative. Using co-production with the Inuit youth of Naujaat, there is an opportunity to improve a sense of cultural identity, pride, and social capital, which have been identified as protective suicide prevention factors (6).

References:

  1. Henry J. Unlearning racism against Indigenous peoples in one generation | rabble.ca [Internet]. Rabble. 2016 [cited 2018 Aug 30]. Available from: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/kairos-canada/2016/03/unlearning-racism-against-indigenous-peoples-one-generation
  2. Government of Canada. Suicide Prevention – Canada.ca [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2018 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/services/first-nations-inuit-health/health-promotion/suicide-prevention.html
  3. Government of Canada. Reports and Publications – Health Promotion – First Nations and Inuit Health Canada – Canada.ca [Internet]. 2013. [cited 2018 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/services/first-nations-inuit-health/reports-publications/health-promotion/national-aboriginal-youth-suicide-prevention-strategy-program-framework.html
  4. Kral MJ. Suicide and Suicide Prevention among Inuit in Canada. Can J Psychiatry [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2018 Aug 23];61(11):688–95. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27738249
  5. Hicks J. The social determinants of elevated rates of suicide among Inuit youth. Iwgia. 2007.
  6. Anang P, Ashdown H, Bronson M, Gottlieb N, Gordon E. Suicide Prevention in Nunavut – How to Engage Youth in Becoming Visionaries? Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 2016.[cited 2018 Aug 23]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310572208

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