Iqaluit woman's daily social media videos offer Inuit-specific 'reasons to stay alive'

Annie Buscemi, 23, says her daily videos on Instagram and TikTok were initially a way to cope with being off work because of an injury. But now, hundreds of people are taking notice and thanking her for helping them with their mental health too.

Annie Buscemi, 23, says more mental health resources needed in Iqaluit

Annie Buscemi, 23, from Iqaluit, started an Instagram and a TikTok account to post videos giving Inuit-specific reasons to live. (Supplied/Aiden Anawak)

A young woman from Iqaluit is using social media to advocate for more mental health resources in her community by spreading messages of hope.

Annie Buscemi, 23, an apprentice electrician who has been off work since getting injured in September, started an Instagram and a TikTok account in early October to cope with not being able to work.

Every day on her accounts — ullaakkut (which means good morning in Inuktitut) on Instagram and annieneevee on TikTok — Buscemi posts a video in which she gives one Inuit-specific reason to stay alive.

"I wanted to find a way to keep my mental health healthy and keep my days positive. And when I started this thing, I found a really big difference in my own daily life as well," she said.

Buscemi said in the last five or six years, she tried several times to talk to a counsellor about her own mental health and has only been able to do so on a couple of occasions.

"Unfortunately, I had to speak to one of them in a hospital, [in] an emergency situation," she said.

"I've had some pretty bad experiences with my own mental health and I found that the mental health resources in Iqaluit aren't helping me."

As long as I keep going for myself, I can keep going for other people. - Annie Buscemi

Buscemi said she wants to see more mental health counsellors in Iqaluit and more Inuit-specific youth programs to help young Inuit connect more with their culture.

In the meantime, she decided to take "little steps" like the daily videos she posts, she said.

Impact 'makes me want to keep going'

Buscemi said she receives messages daily on her Instagram account, which already has more than 600 followers, and her TikTok account that has more than 6,800 followers. People from across Canada and the U.S. thank her for doing the videos.

"Some people have shared their own experiences and how my videos have helped them in their daily lives so I feel like I'm making a pretty big impact and it's having a big impact on me, too." she said.

Her latest fan, she said, is her grandmother, to whom she showed her account earlier this week when they had dinner together.

Buscemi said her grandmother spent close to two hours on her couch looking at her videos.

"She was sitting there laughing and sometimes she had tears in her eyes … It makes me want to keep going, like even more," she said.

Dealing with the pressure

Buscemi started getting recognized in Iqaluit, a city of about 7,700 people, where she said people she doesn't know have thanked her for posting the videos.

While she appreciates that people like her videos, she also said the recognition and attention leads to pressure.

There are some days, she said, she deals with it by turning off her phone for a couple of hours.

"[It's to] ground myself … remind myself that I'm doing this for me. 

"I don't want to start thinking that I'm doing this for other people [although] in a way, I am … I have to keep going for myself. As long as I keep going for myself, I can keep going for other people," she said.

Written by Michel Proulx with files from Mark Hadlari and Avery Zingel