September 10, 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Indigenous people in Canada have some of the highest rates of suicide in the world. First Nations youth are 5 to 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous youth to commit suicide while Inuit youth are 11 times more likely to commit suicide. Suicide not only affects youth but impacts the whole community.
Youth Initiative: STRONG MINDED INUIT
In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, New Journeys is highlighting a youth led initiative, Strong Minded Inuit (SMI), that focuses on creating music and art based on all forms of Indigenous culture and language. Everything is committed to suicide prevention. SMI is led by Founder and youth advocate, William Komaksiutiksak, originally from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut but has been living in Ottawa for most of his life. He is passionate about the life experiences of Inuit youth in cities and small communities in the north. He also has an invested interest in the inter-generational impacts of residential schools, having experienced that himself.
Last year William testified in an emotional statement in front of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples calling for more Inuit specific mental health programs and services. William feeds his passion and dedication into his initiative through music and art, "I really want people to know that you can learn through music, art and culture. And by learning that way, through that positive outlet, it just gives the energy that our people need," Komaksiutiksak said.
"There's addiction problems in my family. Abuse. Loss of identity. And being able to let my voice be heard about this subject is something that, even though I'm on my healing path, I know there's many of my people that need that healing path." Learn more about SMI here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicide and needs immediate assistance, please call the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. It’s toll-free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Urban Indigenous people face challenges to their cultural identity which include discrimination and racism, exclusion from opportunities for self-determination and difficulty finding culturally appropriate services. A loss of connection with the land, contact with Elders, and engagement in spiritual ceremonies may contribute to the effects of marginalization and isolation. You can search the New Journeys database to find culturally appropriate programs and services that can help. You can find the database here.