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Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living launches multiple mental health programs

It has been a busy few weeks for Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living, with one new mental health-related program underway, and three more set to begin soon.
A group of young people attend a suicide prevention session organized by Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living. The weekly sessions are one of several new mental health programs the department is offering. Photo courtesy of James Ayodele

It has been a busy few weeks for Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living, with one new mental health-related program underway, and three more set to begin soon.

“It’s actually not a normal thing to have this many programs starting at the same time,” said James Ayodele, the department’s director. “But for me, since I took over this position, I’ve been thinking of how to make things a bit better, and just doing something different from the status quo, something that will be impactful and something that will help the community and the people generally.”

The department’s newest mental health initiative is a suicide prevention program directed at young people. It began in August, and has been running weekly since, combining elements of wellness and recreation into each session. It runs out of the department’s maker space. It was initially advertised as an opportunity for skill-building and arts and crafts, as young people can be reluctant to attend suicide prevention programming, whether they have considered suicide or not.

“Teenagers are more likely to commit suicide than any other group of individuals,” Ayodele explained. “About half of the population of Nunavut is probably under 25. We’re looking at how to target that particular group of people, because it’s about catching them young and looking at how to help them.”

The new suicide prevention sessions will soon be paired with a program called The Art of Healing, which is scheduled to begin on the week of Oct. 9 and run weekly from there. It will be similar to the suicide prevention program, with a significant recreation aspect to entice young people, but will focus more on recovering from past traumas than preventing future incidents.

“The Art of Healing will be like a corrective program while the suicide prevention program is like a preventative program,” Ayodele said of the two programs.

The department is also developing new mental health programming with adults in mind, most notably its new Alpha Corner and Bravo Corner initiatives.

The Alpha Corner, which will be facilitated as a 12-16 week workshop with meetings twice a week, is designed for men specifically. According to Ayodele, it was developed in response to a lack of programming for men, who are at the second highest risk of suicide and self-harm behind teenagers.

“We’ve heard from people around town that men are usually forgotten,” he said. “They’re not usually top of the line when we start thinking of how to help the community. There’s always kids’ programs, youth programs, women’s programs, but there’s very few men’s programs. We’re trying to change that narrative, so we’re focusing the Alpha Corner program on men.

“It’s a program that basically deals with how to handle anger and anxiety, how to improve communication with oneself and communication with others, and of course, self-care,” he added, noting that the program will specifically target men dealing with issues like homelessness, unemployment and intimate partner violence, “because men also suffer from that, but it’s never talked about.”

Bravo Corner, conversely, will focus on parents who “need to improve their communication with their kids, or even communication with their partner,” and will teach skills like enhancing communication and creating boundaries.

“Over the last couple of months we’ve had many issues with the youth, which is one of the things that has spurred us to come up with these programs and see how we can engage the youth and engage the parents and the whole family, separately and together at the same time,” Ayodele said.

Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living has already received praise for its innovative programming, such as its land-based addictions treatment programming.

The department’s new mental health programming should strengthen that reputation, but for Ayodele, that’s not the priority.

“I think, so far, I can say that Cambridge Bay has been at the forefront of a lot of very good things, and we’ve been trying to set examples for other communities to follow,” he said, noting with a laugh that he did not want to brag. “But the idea is not actually to be at the forefront of anything.

“We have a very strong team that is always coming up with innovative ideas and I’m always very supportive of helping to fine tune those ideas and make then work,” he added. “We just want to make the community better than it was when we met it.”

About the Author: Tom Taylor

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