Mental health challenges are present in every culture, but are better supported among smaller populations, said Rankin Inlet’s Levinia Brown, originally from Chesterfield Inlet.
“But over time, communities got bigger and bigger, and it seems like (mental health issues are) multiplying quite heavily,” she said.
She was a guest speaker at a mental health interagency event held at the Singiituq Complex Community Hall in Rankin Inlet Thursday, Dec. 17. The Mental Health and Addictions Division organized the affair in collaboration with the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet and Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre.
“When we lived in the communities, we managed our own with the people we had,” said Brown, noting Chesterfield Inlet was home to about 80 residents when she lived there.
She added that everybody has issues, but there are some heavy ones families and friends are dealing with.
“It seems like not enough people are asking for help,” said Brown. “I don’t know why, but we’re stressing don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Reach out before it gets too bad.”
Upwards of 150 people attended the event, which was hosted by Christina Best, wellness co-ordinator for the hamlet. Brown and recreation co-ordinator David Clark were the featured speakers.
Stéphanie Richard, regional manager of mental health and addictions, said the intent of the event was to get the community together before the end of a difficult year.
“We wanted to make sure our community, Rankinmiut are aware of what kind of supports are available and how and where they can reach out to,” she said.
Richard said it can be scary to ask for help and go to an office, so the event also served to familiarize community members with the faces behind the supports available. A number of booths helped attendees connect with different mental health service providers.
“You don’t have to wait to be in crisis to talk to us,” said Richard, who was thrilled with the crowd of approximately 150 people.
“We were so hoping to have a good turnout and people came, people showed up. It was not good weather, but they still came and it’s something we hope to do on a quarterly basis going forward, to reinforce that supports are there and to encourage people to connect with us.”
Her favourite part was the personal stories guest speakers shared.
“To have these role models go on stage and really put it out there and be brave enough to share about their challenges and ways they overcame them was extremely inspiring,” said Richard, adding that by normalizing people’s struggles, it becomes easier to come forward and ask for help.
Brown said she was particularly impressed by the message from co-guest speaker Clark.
She added that Rankin Inlet has great mental health services, plus numerous Elders to turn to. She understands it can be hard to discuss some things within a family.
“When I was growing up, I found it hard to speak to my mom and dad about heavy issues,” said Brown.
She stressed the importance of encouraging youth to talk and that everyone shares a similar journey, regardless of their background.
“We all suffer, we all struggle and we all have issues,” said Brown. “But by working together and accepting each other, we’ll make it easier to walk on the path.”