The government of Nunavut is hoping that better-trained teachers and more mental-health facilities will bring down suicide rates that are the highest in Canada.
The measures are part of a plan on suicide prevention released in Iqaluit on Monday.
"Now, we actually have the action plan to reduce suicide," said Peter Ma, Nunavut's deputy health minister.
Signed by the territorial government, the RCMP, the territory's main land-claim body and a suicide-prevention group, the long-awaited plan calls for more co-operation between mental health and education professionals.
It suggests that teachers from elementary grades through high school get better training to spot at-risk kids. It calls for more counsellors in remote communities and says Nunavut should have at least some mental health facilities of its own. Currently, anyone needing residential mental health treatment in Nunavut must go south.
It says most of this should happen over the next year or two. But the plan doesn't identify how much the measures would cost and who would put up the money.
Suicide — especially among young Inuit, and especially among young Inuit males — has long been one of Nunavut's biggest challenges. Not only does each death mark an individual tragedy, experts say the cumulative toll of dozens of self-inflicted deaths is a spreading stain on Nunavut's whole society.
Out of a population of about 30,000, Nunavut has already suffered 23 suicides this year. From just a handful of self-inflicted deaths throughout the '60s and '70s, an average of 28 Nunavummiut killed themselves every year from 2000-2010. The suicide rate for Inuit youth is 11 times the national average.
The action plan was supposed to come out months ago, following the release last fall of a suicide-prevention strategy. But the Health Minsitry says it was delayed because so many groups were involved.
Jack Anawak of the land-claim group Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said the plan is long overdue.
"I really welcome this," he said. "It's a long time coming. I'm very optimistic and hopeful that finally we're at least getting to first base."