Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 21, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Ottawa introduces new wellness help line for Inuit, First Nations

"A welcome step in the right direction," says ITK's Natan Obed

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed presents the organization's national Inuit suicide prevention plan July 27 in Kuujjuaq. (FILE PHOTO)
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed presents the organization's national Inuit suicide prevention plan July 27 in Kuujjuaq. (FILE PHOTO)

Inuit and First Nations will now be able to call a wellness help line for support 24/7.

Jane Philpott, the federal minister of health, announced the launch of the national toll-free First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line Oct. 19 at the end of this week’s meeting of federal and territorial health ministers in Toronto.

The new toll-free number for the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is 1-855-242-3310.

The help line, which launched Oct. 1, provides “immediate, culturally competent, telephone crisis intervention counselling support for First Nations and Inuit, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said a recent news release.

Counsellors can also work with callers to identify follow-up services they can access.

Counselling is available in English and French and, upon request, in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktut, the release said.

In the release, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which released its National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy this past July, said “we must provide Inuit who need help—especially young Inuit—with the supports they require in a culturally safe manner.

“The creation of a national crisis line for Inuit and First Nations is a welcome step in the right direction.”

Nunavut’s suicide rate is nearly 10 times the national average, especially affecting men between 14 and 25 years old.

The help line is being funded as part of the $69 million announced by Ottawa last June to support crisis response teams, mental wellness teams and increased access to mental health care services.

“I have been deeply troubled by the many stories I have heard about First Nations and Inuit youth struggling with mental wellness. This government acknowledges the scope and seriousness of the mental health issues facing many First Nations and Inuit communities across the country and we are committed to working collaboratively with our partners to address these complex issues.

“The launch of the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is an important step forward and makes culturally safe telephone counselling support available around the clock and across the country, for those who need it, when they need it,” Philpott said in the release.

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