Sexual abuse seen as cause in Nunavut suicides

A social worker says sexual abuse is the major factor in Nunavut's high suicide rate.

Sexual abuse related to suicide in Nunavut, say officials

10 years ago
Duration 2:00
Officials say sexual abuse is directly related to the high number of suicides in the territory.

High rates of sexual abuse in Nunavut are contributing to the number of suicides in the territory, health officials said.

Government officials and Inuit organizations are trying to come up with ways to support people in distress and their families and friends. There have been 13 suicides in Nunavut since January, which is twice the rate of last year.

Kaujak Komangapik, a social worker in Pond Inlet, said there are many reasons some young people are struggling. 

"The biggest problem is sexual abuse, whether it happens during childhood or in later years. They are not aware of how to deal with that and it has a negative impact on their lives," Komangapik said.

Some families say more support is needed, including for those grieving after a suicide.

The government does have support services in place, Monita O'Connor, an assistant Deputy Minister in Nunavut's health department, said.

"When there is a suicide within a community, usually and I'm assuming we are doing this, is that the staff, the mental health and the nursing staff would be reaching out to families," O’Connor said.

Okalik Eegeesiak, the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said the association is working with the government to find ways to help Nunavummiut.

"The Nunavut government needs more federal funding to meet the needs of mental health issues. Whether it's an emergency or not, there are just not enough mental health professionals being made available in the communities," Eegeesiak said.

Komangapik said children in particular need more attention.

"We are short-staffed, and at the end of the day we cannot deal with as many child case files as we should or need because we just can't keep up," she said.