Nunavut community groups prepare for World Suicide Prevention Day
“We need to break the stigma that it is weak to ask for help”
Many activities are planned this Sept. 10 for World Suicide Prevention Day, most aimed at drawing attention to the high rates of suicide among Inuit and to make people more aware of suicide prevention.
In Ottawa, the National Inuit Youth Council is hosting its sixth annual “Celebrate Life” event on Parliament Hill to raise awareness about suicide prevention, especially among youth, organizer Kathleen Merritt said.
The event is scheduled to take place between 12 noon to 1 p.m. at the Eternal Flame on the lawn of Parliament Hill.
Members of Parliament and senators have been invited.
“It’s kind of a peaceful protest,” Merritt said.
Inuit singer-songwriter Celina Kalluk, throat singer Abigail Carleton, the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre choir and Nunavut Sivuniksavut students will perform at the event.
The theme of last year’s event was “to speak up” because “for a long time suicide in Inuit communities wasn’t talked about,” Merritt said.
This year’s theme: “to ask for help” from either friends, family or health professionals.
“We need to break the stigma that it is weak to ask for help. Really it’s the strong thing to do,” Merritt said.
The purpose of the event is also to seek government assistance in this issue because the numbers are unacceptably high, she added, because “it’s something that shouldn’t exist.”
An Iqaluit candlelight vigil is planned for Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, at 8 p.m. in Iqaluit Square, in addition to other events earlier in the weekend, including a concert and workshops with Baker Lake’s hip-hop artist and throat-boxer Nelson Tagoona Sept. 8 and Sept. 9.
Tagoona’s Sept. 8 free concert is at 7 p.m., at the francophone centre.
A workshop also takes place there that afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tagoona is also scheduled to put on another concert at the barbeque at Sylvia Grinnell Park between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sept. 9.
In Baker Lake, events will take place between 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Sept. 10 when members of the youth group will host a walk and will pin yellow ribbons on everyone who participates and a local business will hand out hockey sweaters with the local youth group logo.
Refreshments donated from local businesses will be available after the walk, and there will be a presentation of a DVD from the Embrace Life Council, a youth talent showcase, and a square dance.
On Sept. 10 in Clyde River, organizers plan to hold a walk with community health representatives, social workers, and Ilisaqsivik wellness counsellors.
Goodies, games, and a dance will follow at the community hall.
At the event, called “celebrating life,” adults are to dress up as young people and young ones to dress up as older folks.
And in Cambridge Bay, events start at 11 a.m. on Sept. 10 and go until 8 p.m., when people are asked to light a candle at home to remember those who have died by suicide.
An “I love life” chat is also planned at the Cambridge Bay wellness centre at 11 a.m. and a memory walk at 1:30 p.m., as well as games in the community hall at 2:30 p.m.
The Inuit suicide rate is 11 times higher than the national average.
Statistics Canada has reported that between 2004 and 2008, youth under 19 in Inuit Nunangat were 30 times more likely to die from suicide than youth living elsewhere in Canada.
More information is available at the Embrace Life Council’s website.