Nunavummiut take mental health awareness to Facebook

Some concerned Nunavummiut are using social media to help people deal with mental health issues. They've set up a Facebook page where people can talk about their problems anonymously, and they’re hoping to expand the service.

'Everyone needs to talk to someone when they're down'

'Everyone needs to talk to someone when they're down,' says Cheryl Linkletter. 'Because if you don't have that support, you kind of get lower and... who knows?' (Shaun Malley/CBC)

Armed with no more than a laptop, Cheryl Linkletter is on a mission, using social media to help Nunavummiut tackle mental health problems.

“Everyone needs to talk to someone when they're down,” she says. “Because if you don't have that support, you kind of get lower and... who knows?”

Many in Nunavut struggle with mental health issues — a fact highlighted by 45 deaths by suicide in 2013, the highest number ever recorded since the territory was created in 1999.

There are services out there to help make sure they don't have to suffer in silence, such as the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, which recently partnered with an Ottawa service to make its telephone service available 24/7.

Linkletter volunteers at the help line, but says she also wants to offer an alternative to people who don’t want to pick up the phone.

Her Facebook page includes a link to a website where anyone can share their troubles, without having to give their name.

“People can post anonymously,” she says. “They can feel comfortable saying what's on their mind at any given time and have people respond to them.”

'You can talk to someone'

Rhoda Ungalaq, a 15-year veteran volunteer with the help line, says the new Facebook page is an excellent idea.

“It’s necessary to have an outlet,” Ungalaq says. “You can talk to someone, someone who is able to listen to you first of all and also understand your situation.”

Linkletter is now turning to corporate and government sources to help fund a new idea she has for the page: she wants people to be able to send their words to the site by text messages, free of charge.

She says the site hasn't had much response yet and that she's facing an uphill battle to connect with people in need, but Linkletter is hoping the site will help in times of need.

“At least if we reach out to some people and they accept the help... it's a start.”