Nunavut has produced a long-awaited suicide prevention strategy that it hopes will reduce the territory's high number of self-inflicted deaths.

The strategy, tabled Tuesday in the Nunavut legislature, is the product of two years of research by the territorial government, the RCMP, the Inuit land-claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Embrace Life Council.

This month, the RCMP said at least 26 suicides have been reported so far this year in Nunavut, a territory of about 30,000 people. Between 20 and 37 suicides have been reported every year since 2000.

"Few people have experienced the scale of death by suicide that Nunavut Inuit have in the last 40 years," the prevention strategy states in part.

The working group that developed the strategy has made eight commitments toward:

  • Improving mental health services.
  • Training people in suicide intervention.
  • Providing support to youth.
  • Supporting research on suicide.
  • Providing more information to communities.

Resources needed

"At least we now have a strategy," Health and Social Services Minister Tagak Curley told CBC News. "My role as a minister will be to ensure that we have enough resources and support for our mental health workers."

The working group has yet to work out details of a plan to implement the prevention strategy. Once that plan is in place, Curley said the territorial government could increase funding in areas such as mental health services.

Jessie Mike of the Embrace Life Council said it has been a challenge to gain a consensus on how to deal with such a painful subject, but she is glad the strategy is now complete.

"I'm happy it took the time that it did, because it needed to be done well," Mike said.

As for how to implement the suicide prevention strategy, Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott said making changes will require a commitment from everyone in Nunavut.

"In terms of dealing with suicide within their own family or within close relatives, or with loss of friends ... how they will be able to implement it?" Elliott said.