On the final day of the Circumpolar Mental Wellness Symposium in Iqaluit, it was youth who took centre stage — including one young Greenlandic woman who started a project to prevent suicide.
Paninnguaq Heilmann, who spoke at the symposium Friday, is the voice behind the "Life is Beautiful" photo project. After a wave of suicides in south Greenland last year, Heilmann grabbed a pen, paper, and her camera, and started taking photos of people holding up messages of support, which she shares on Facebook.
The messages, most written in the Greenlandic dialect of Kalaallisut, translate to phrases like "you are loved," and "you are not alone."
"Take action," says Heilmann. "Do something, and if someone wants to start, I can help them with getting started.
"It's not that hard. and the feeling is amazing of helping."
Heilmann has had her own struggles with mental illness. She attempted suicide twice, once when she was 16, and again at 19. Since then, though, she has been trying to give young people hope through her project.
Now, she wants to inspire other Inuit to take action to combat what has become an epidemic in the North. According to 2007 data, Nunavut's suicide rate of 71 people per hundred thousand would rank it second in the world, if it were a country.
Rachel Michael, a Nunavut youth delegate at the symposium, agrees with Heilmann's sentiments.
"No matter who you are, you have a significance on this earth," she says. "No matter where you're from, and no matter what upbringing you come from, you have a significance and a passion you need to share.
Michael says the theme for youth at the conference was "nothing for us without us."
The three-day Circumpolar Mental Wellness Symposium ended on Friday in Iqaluit after being attended by over 100 delegates from Arctic countries and indigenous groups, as well as youth and researchers. The goal of the conference was to discuss research and share knowledge about mental wellness issues specific to the North.