Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic April 29, 2014 - 4:56 pm

ITK moves ahead on national suicide prevention plan

“We need to address a critical lack of infrastructure in Inuit communities"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Two marchers carry an Embrace Life banner and small candles during a World Suicide Prevention Day walk in Cambridge Bay last September. Inuit Tapirrit Kanatami is now working to develop an Inuit-specific suicide prevention strategy. (PHOTO BY RED SUN PRODUCTIONS)
Two marchers carry an Embrace Life banner and small candles during a World Suicide Prevention Day walk in Cambridge Bay last September. Inuit Tapirrit Kanatami is now working to develop an Inuit-specific suicide prevention strategy. (PHOTO BY RED SUN PRODUCTIONS)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has put out a call for proposals seeking someone to develop a national Inuit suicide prevention strategy for them that reflects current knowledge and Inuit culture and traditions.

ITK, along with the National Inuit Committee on Health, have long identified mental wellness as a top priority for Inuit across the country, noting that suicide prevention is an important issue to Inuit nationally, regionally and at the community level.

“Why do we need an Inuit-specific suicide prevention strategy? We need to recognize the uniqueness of Inuit communities, their shared history of collective and historical trauma, and the relationship between mental wellness and substance abuse in Inuit communities,” ITK president Terry Audla said during a speech on World Suicide Prevention Day last September.

“We need to address a critical lack of infrastructure in Inuit communities and strengthen the continuum of mental health services, especially in relation to accessibility and appropriateness of care.”

Statistics show that Inuit across Inuit Nunangat are struggling with disproportionate rates of suicide compared to the non-Inuit population.

A 2012 study revealed that the self-inflicted injury (suicide) rate for males aged 15 to 24 living in Inuit regions was 26 times the rate for males of the same age group living elsewhere in Canada.

The strategy will also come on the heels of 2013, the year Nunavut recorded the deaths of 45 people by suicide – the highest number for any given year since the territory’s creation in 1999.

ITK’s new strategy hopes to change that, by focusing on preventative methods, research, surveillance, crisis intervention, treatment and support. And the hope is that it will be used in the development of policies and programs across the Inuit Nunangat.

The strategy was initially meant to be led by Jack Hicks, who was hired on as ITK’s senior policy advisor for mental wellness last year.

Hicks, who has been investigating suicidal behaviour in Nunavut for the last decade and spearheading evidence-based suicide prevention initiatives in the territory, has since left the position.

Whoever is selected to lead the project will work alongside the Alianait Inuit Specific Mental Wellness Advisory Committee, whose membership includes Inuit from across the country, to help draft a strategy relevant to each Inuit region.

The deadline for proposals is May 9, after which ITK says it hopes to accomplish its work in a “reasonable time frame.”

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