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'We're taking this very seriously': Nunavik leaders on suicide crisis

In Quebec's Inuit territory of Nunavik, leaders have rejected calls to declare a state of emergency over a recent spate of self-inflicted deaths, saying that short-term response isn't the right solution.

Quebec Inuit leaders say Canada-wide Inuit suicide prevention strategy is on its way

The president of Makivik Corporation, Jobie Tukkiapik, said Canada's Inuit leadership plans to release a national suicide prevention strategy in the coming weeks.

In Quebec's Inuit territory of Nunavik, leaders have rejected calls to declare a state of emergency over a recent spate of self-inflicted deaths.

In his first official statement since twelve people took their own lives, Makivik Corporation president Jobie Tukkiapik said the solutions to the 'complex' problem of suicide are being addressed on two fronts.

Tukkiapik said the region's leaders are looking at both mental health resources and living conditions to prevent more deaths. 

Makivik Corporation oversees Inuit rights and business interests in Nunavik, operating an airline, a shipping company and a research centre. Tukkiapik spoke to CBC on behalf of the Parnasimautilirjiit committee – elected leaders at the municipal and regional government levels.

"For Parnasimautilirjiit," said Tukkiapik, "it was to reassure our population that this is being taken very seriously, the issue of suicide and suicide prevention."

"As an Inuit society, we find it a very difficult and complex issue to deal with because it was not prevalent in the nomadic society that we were."

National prevention strategy coming

Tukkiapik said Quebec's Inuit leaders discussed the issue this week with Natan Obed, the president of the national Inuit organization Inuit Tapirit Kanatami.

Obed is expected to release a national suicide prevention strategy for Inuit people living right across the Canadian North, from the Northwest Territories to Labrador. 

Tukkiapik said no one at the meeting thought it was necessary to declare a state of emergency, as some Nunavik Inuit have demanded.

"It's a long-term problem that we have here, and we wanted to address it in that way," Tukkiapik said.

No one from the Nunavik Board of Health and Social Services, which oversees the 2012 prevention suicide strategy, was available for comment. 

Quebec's Ministry of Health has said new mental health professionals have been hired, but there's no word on whether any of them have begun working.


Suicide-prevention resources and contacts:

Community CLSC: #9090 (Inuktitut/english/french)

Traditional Health Support workers (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) 1-877-686-2845 (Inuktitut/English)

Kamatsiaqtut Help line: 1-800-265-3333 (Inuktitut/English)

Kids help phone: 1-800-668-6868 (English/French)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (English)

                                                      1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553) (French)


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