Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik October 26, 2016 - 9:00 am

Nunavik’s suicide prevention conference imparts healing, self-care

“Inuit have a way to gather their strength"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Participants at the Puttautiit suicide prevention conference in Kuujjuaq release lanterns in the sky Oct. 22, a symbol of releasing grief and the start of healing. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)
Participants at the Puttautiit suicide prevention conference in Kuujjuaq release lanterns in the sky Oct. 22, a symbol of releasing grief and the start of healing. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)
This year's Puttautiit conference featured a number of cultural activities for participants, including a campsite where Nunavimmiut could enjoy tea and country food. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)
This year's Puttautiit conference featured a number of cultural activities for participants, including a campsite where Nunavimmiut could enjoy tea and country food. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)

Grief and healing: they’ve been the focus of everyday life for many Nunavimmiut in 2016 following the suicides of a dozen young people in the first half of the year.

That’s why grief and healing served as the theme to this month’s Puttautiit, the region’s second suicide prevention conference hosted this year by the Regional Suicide Prevention Committee Oct. 17-23.

Following the success of Nunavik’s inaugural conference hosted last year in Puvirnituq, about 70 Nunavimmiut—from front line workers to community leaders and people who’ve lost family to suicide—took part in a second event in Kuujjuaq last week.

This year’s conference led participants through the steps involved in grieving the sudden loss of a loved one; how to begin on a path of healing and tips on self-care along the way, said Minnie Grey, executive director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, which helped to coordinate the event.

Puttautiit, which translates as “life jackets,” is designed to empower Inuit to support themselves through the healing process, she said.

“Inuit have great knowledge and years of experience, and the time has come to share that knowledge with the younger generations in order to take pride in our culture and strengths,” Grey said in an Oct. 21 release.

The week-long event included storytelling sessions, workshops on mindfulness and art, healing circles, country food feasts, all culminating in the release of Chinese or sky lanterns in the air the evening of Oct. 22.

Puttautiit is modeled after the annual “Dialogue for Life” conference that takes place in Montreal, a suicide prevention event focused on the indigenous peoples of Quebec and Labrador.

But Nunavimmiut later identified the need to have create a more regional approach to suicide prevention.

According to the Quebec coroner’s office’s most recent statistics, 163 Nunavimmiut died by suicide between 2000 and 2011, making it the second-highest cause of death in the region, just after cancer.

Health officials in Nunavik have said that Puttautiit will become an annual event in the region, with the goal of moving to a new community each year.

“Inuit have a way to gather their strength, regroup and to support each other in good and difficult times,” said Kuujjuaq mayor Tunu Napartuk, who attended Puttautiit.

“I think we owe our ancestors a great deal of credit for creating this sense of strength for survival. They knew that without helping each other, they would not be able to survive the harsh climate of the North.”

If you are in need of support or have thoughts of suicide, there are a number of toll-free numbers you can call to speak to someone:

- Kamatsiaqtut Help Line 1-800-265-3333 (Inuktitut, English)

- Residential school crisis line 1-866-925-4419 (Inuktitut, English, French)

- Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

- 1-866-APPELLE in Quebec (French)

- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line 1-855-242-3310.

Kuujjuaq educator Mary Joanne Kauki gives a workshop on decolonization to participants of the region's second-ever suicide prevention conference in Kuujjuaq last week. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)
Kuujjuaq educator Mary Joanne Kauki gives a workshop on decolonization to participants of the region's second-ever suicide prevention conference in Kuujjuaq last week. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PUTTAUTIIT)
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