The mayor of Kuujjuaq has a message for everyone, young and old in his community.

"It will come to pass," Tunu Napartuk said. "We forget, especially when it's more difficult. We have a tendency to think we'll be in this state, in this pain, forever."

'We all go through turmoil in our lives, and this is something that is not an easy thing to deal with at times when you're going through that crisis. But there is always another day.' - Senator Charlie Watt

Since December, five young people in the village of 2,500 in Nunavik, the Inuit territory in northern Quebec, have taken their own lives. There have also been several attempted suicides.

Napartuk, 43, is the father of six young children. He held three-year-old Lucina on his lap as he talked about what it's been like since the first death.

"At first, it was very difficult," he said. 

"There was a lot of frustration — of course, everyone was in pain. But there was also a lot of frustration and some anger, really, it wasn't easy at all."

Napartuk says that has changed and people have started pulling together. Suicide prevention workers, elders, health workers and teachers are supporting the grieving families.

They are also trying to encourage young people to speak out.

"My sense is there is a little bit more hope in the community, and it makes things a whole lot easier," Napartuk said

Kuujjuaq mayor Tunu Napartuk at his home with his daughter Lucina

Kuujjuaq Mayor Tunu Napartuk, seen here with daughter Lucina, is encouraging people in the community to share their grief. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Napartuk said it's not necessary to declare a state of emergency, as the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Manitoba did after the deaths of six people since Dec. 12, 2015.

"The community has been regrouping really well, and trying to find ways to help each other, find support within and we have the resources," Napartuk said.

Veteran Inuk Senator Charlie Watt is encouraging young people in his home town to reach out for help if they need it.

Watt says he wants young people to know life will get better.

"We all go through turmoil in our lives, and this is something that is not an easy thing to deal with at times when you're going through that crisis. But there is always another day," Watt said.

Senator Charlie Watt

Veteran senator Charlie Watt wants young people in his home town of Kuujjuaq to know life does get better. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

A call for 'permanent support'

After provincial officials reached out, the municipality, local health board and education board have prepared a "wish list."

Minnie Grey, the executive director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, said the community still needs more support. 

"Our front-line workers are exhausted, the teachers are exhausted, the social workers are exhausted," Grey said. "So we have been very fortunate to have the ministry very open to say, 'OK, what do you need?'"

Kuujjuaq

Kuujjuaq is the largest village in Nunavik, the Inuit territory in northern Quebec. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Grey says they have asked for more therapists, child psychologists, healing counsellors and street workers — all First Nations or Inuit. She said the communities need people who will stay beyond a few years.

But she remains hopeful.

Nunavik held its first-ever suicide prevention conference last fall. The board is working on creating its own suicide helpline, since people currently have to rely on services in Nunavut. 

Grey also says in the past several years, more than 200 Inuit have been trained in suicide prevention. 


There is a helpline in Inuktitut that people can call if they need help. It's based in Nunavut and open from 7 a.m. until midnight. The number is 1-800-265-3333. Quebec's suicide prevention helpline is 1-866-277-3553.