Suicide in Nunavut a 'crisis,' 'epidemic'

Nunavut's chief coroner is calling a special inquest into suicide in Nunavut. Listen to her reasons, and hear Nunavut suicide researcher Jack Hicks and grieving father, Joanasie Akumalik, in conversation with As it Happen's Carol Off.
Joanasie Akumalik lost his son, Aapi, to suicide at age 24. Click the link on the left to listen to his full conversation with As it Happen's Carol Off. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

Nunavut’s chief coroner is calling suicide in Nunavut a crisis and an epidemic.

Suramala pushed for an inquiry into suicides in the territory, after the number of suicides in Nunavut hit a record-high in 2013. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

On Thursday, Padma Suramala says that's why she's calling an inquest into suicides in Nunavut. 

"It's not just numbers,” Suramala says. “As a human being and as a person it is very difficult for me and my coroners to go to each and every suicide. It is very disheartening to see and investigate each case. We would also like to see these numbers reducing.”

Suramala says there were a record 45 suicides in 2013, and already three deaths in the first two weeks of 2014.

Four hundred and thirty four people, mainly young Inuit men and women, have taken their own lives in the territory since 1999.

The youngest was just 11 years old.

Suramala hopes the inquest will shed light on what needs to be done to deal with the crisis.

Jack Hicks has been calling for more action on suicide prevention in Nunavut. Click the link on the left to hear his full conversation with As It Happen's Carol Off.

“It certainly can’t hurt,” said Nunavut suicide researcher, Jack Hicks, of the inquiry. Hicks was involved in the Nunavut suicide prevention strategy and has been calling for more action on implementation of that strategy.

Joanasie Akumalik lost his son, Aapi, to suicide last year. He was 24.

“I think all the stress that a lot of young people are facing, is part of the cause, which is sometimes a lack of education, no income and other stressful issues that are happening in the North,” Akumalik says.

The special inquest will involve a public jury of six people.

They’ll investigate three deaths in detail, and the factors leading up to them, then come up with recommendations.

The inquest is planned for this fall.

Across Nunavut, the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Helpline is open every night from 7-12 p.m. ET at 867-979-3333 or 1-800-265-3333.