Pangnirtung revives healing group, develops suicide prevention action plan
'We want to actually turn things upside down,' says Inuit Ilagiit board member Markus Wilcke
The Nunavut hamlet of Pangnirtung is developing a five-year action plan on suicide prevention, and will revive an old society to help carry it out.
This comes after a series of workshops that were held in the hamlet earlier this month.
About 140 youth, parents and elders participated in the two-week long healing programs guided by10 facilitators and two volunteer psychiatrists from Canadian Executive Service Organization, an international development organization based in Ontario.
"We want to become more self sufficient," said Markus Wilcke, who is a board member of Inuit Ilagiit that hosted the workshops. Inuit Ilagiit is a not-for-profit organization that aims to address poverty in the community.
"Rather than a top-down perspective from institutions … we want to actually turn things upside down."
Wilcke said poverty takes all forms in Nunavut — from the soaring cost of food, to educational poverty, to lack of opportunities.
Furthermore, he said the dialogues, in both English and Inuktitut, pointed to the pattern of generational trauma affecting residents young and old.
Elder witnesses healing
But Peter Kanayuk, an elder and one of the facilitators, said he has witnessed healing happening in the past two weeks.
"Some of the elders were talking about what they go through. I saw that they were feeling much better at the end of the day," Kanayuk said.
Kanuyak said he hopes for less suicide in his community, and for people to feel more secure.
"So they can feel safe from anything. That's my hope. And people [to] help each other through healing."
Revival of an old committee
According to statistics provided, the committee had facilitated over 50 healing projects between 2005 and 2009.
The committee was shut down after Stephen Harper's Conservative government stopped funding the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in 2014.
The new Pujualussait Society will be in charge of administering the suicide prevention programs.
It will work side-by-side with Embrace Life Council, which offers parenting and youth mental wellness programs that already exist within the community.
The society will hold its founding meeting on Feb. 21.
More news from Pangnirtung, Nunavut:
- Community saves Pangnirtung daycare from $120K of CRA debt
- New power plant for Pangnirtung, Nunavut, 2 years after fire destroyed original
- RCMP suspect arson in fire that destroyed warehouse in Pangnirtung, Nunavut
- Nunavut women find berry picking 'gold mine' in northern Quebec
- Flare pots used to light Pangnirtung, Nunavut runway after electrical outage
If you're experiencing emotional distress and want to talk, call the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310.
For help in Inuktitut, you can call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line at 1-867-979-3333 or, toll-free from Nunavik or Nunavut, at 1-800-265-3333.
With files from Michael Salomonie