Nunavut funds community-based suicide prevention plan – North

Nunavut is making its largest push yet to tackle its suicide crisis, including a role for social media.

In Iqaluit Monday, the Nunavut government unveiled a $35-million, five-year suicide prevention plan that focuses on building a program at the community level, instead of leaving all the legwork to the territorial government.

Half the money will go directly to communities.

That idea grew out of a summit held in Iqaluit in May 2016 with representatives from across Nunavut to share ideas on what was working and what else was needed, said David Lawson, an RCMP officer who is president of the Embrace Life Council. His group helped produce the plan along with the Nunavut government, RCMP and other organizations.

People at the summit noted it was difficult for local groups with ideas for solutions to slog through the paperwork and proposals they needed to complete in order to secure funding.

The five-year plan dedicates $16 million to community programs, large or small, that help prevent suicide — anything from mental health services and prenatal care to early childhood education.

‘Our communities know what they need’

Solomon Nasook of Hall Beach, Nunavut, is pleased.

Two years ago, while working as a guard in RCMP cells, he applied for $26,000 to start a men’s group.

Solomon Nasook of Hall Beach started one of the territory’s most successful suicide prevention programs. (Solomon Nasook/Facebook)

Today, it’s one of the most successful programs in Nunavut.

“Getting the men to talk about their problems,” he said. “Letting it out. Doing one-on-one, I think that helped a lot. We took them out for one-week trips, either fishing or caribou hunting, or both. And they all came back a lot happier, and that’s when things started changing.”

Canada’s average annual suicide rate is 11 per 100,000 people, but Nunavut’s rate is 117. For Inuit males between 15 and 29, the rate is almost 40 times the national figure.

George Hickes, Nunavut’s…

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