Nunavummiut who need mental health support can turn to health care professionals, elders or other community members or the local church, Health Minister George Hickes said Tuesday.
Hickes acknowledged that the territory needs mental health facilities but he said the lack of them shouldn’t stop people from reaching out for whatever assistance they can get, and that includes the RCMP if safety becomes a factor.
“There is this misconception, I think, similar to addictions and trauma treatment that it has to be in a facility… not all solutions are bricks and mortar… We recognize that we need these facilities in the territory and we are taking steps to move forward with planning, but that should not stop somebody from seeking help,” said Hickes. “Seek help. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength to admit that we all struggle at different aspects of our lives and if we don’t ask for help, help is not going to come knocking at our door. We need to take that first step and we need to encourage all of our family members and all of our community members.”
Hickes faced a series of questions on the need for greater mental health supports from Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak, Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak and Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk in the legislative assembly. Kamingoak asked for more funding for on-the-land programming that could be used to counter mental health issues in communities.
Hickes replied that $4 million has been allocated through the Quality of Life Division for initiatives of that nature, but he suggested that on-the-land programming might not be the approach other communities choose to take.
“I have said it in the past and I’ll say it again: what works in one community may not necessarily work in another. We strive very diligently and very hard to make sure that communities have the control over what they want, of what services they want provided to them, and that’s where the application, the proposal, that’s where the ideas and the energy need to come from, from the community,” Hickes said. “If I cookie-cut a program into Kugluktuk that maybe worked in Kimmirut, it doesn’t mean it will work in Kimmirut. These need to be driven by the community.”