Léa Plourde-Léveillé is a PHD student from Université du Québec à Montréal, working on suicide prevention and psychology.

When she began a research project with Arviat and Pangnirtung in 2017, community members were all for it, with one suggestion: focus on the positive.

“They were kind of tired of always focusing on the negative stuff, and they wanted a more positive approach to suicide prevention, one that would concentrate on youth strength and community resilience,” said Plourde-Léveillé.

In 2019, she did 32 interviews with youth ages 14 to 25 in both communities to see how they cope with challenges in their lives, and she also asked them to share photos of things that made them happy.

Then Covid happened, delaying the project until 2022, when she returned to Arviat and hosted a gallery of youth photos along with positive quotes.

To little surprise, a consistent theme in how youth navigated their lives was their connection with the land, but it took shape in different ways.

“For some people, going on the land was taking a break from community challenges,” said Plourde-Léveillé. “For others, going on the land would be to connect with those who came before them.”

For others, it was a way to deal with trauma and find peace. As well, some preferred going on the land alone, while others enjoyed company.

“That was really interesting, because the reason why they would go on the land was because they were not feeling well, but what they were getting from these trips on the land were really very different depending on who I was talking to,” said Plourde-Léveillé.

All agreed coming home from the land came with a sense of refresh and relief, she said.

Next on Plourde-Léveillé’s to-do list is hosting a similar exhibition of youth photos and quotes in Pangnirtung, followed by a report on her research. What stuck with her though were the people she encountered in the North.

“What I appreciated the most during this was how people were welcoming of me and took the time to really discuss with me and chat with me and teach me so much,” said Plourde-Léveillé. “I was so happily surprised of how the youth participated in the project. They gave me a lot of time.”

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