This week, Baker Lake’s Alan Qiyuaryuk will be in Clyde River learning how to become a counsellor to men like him.
The fact that just a few years ago he was an alcoholic who was worried about losing everything speaks to the power of healing.
It also offers an example of what is possible when men who are hurting seek help.
The Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre, which invited Qiyuaryuk to the Clyde River workshop, is hoping that Qiyuaryuk will become one of the many new male counsellors it plans to hire throughout the region over the coming months.
The friendship centre is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing community wellness and counselling services throughout the Kivalliq.
While it aims to have a presence in every community, the organization has had difficulty getting men to sign up for its services.
That is why the centre is currently seeking to fill the gap with a view to having at least one male counsellor in every Kivalliq community by the fall.
Considering the organization currently only has two male counsellors, both of whom are based in Rankin Inlet, the plan is ambitious but worthwhile.
According to Statistics Canada, between 1950 and 2009, men died by suicide at a rate three times greater than women. Canadian men are also around three times more likely to experience addiction and substance abuse compared to Canadian women.
There are all kinds of explanations and excuses why men fall through the cracks. But why are men so reluctant to seek help when things go wrong?
Don McCreary, co-chair of the Toronto Men’s Health Network, writes that the concept of “men’s health” is relatively new in Canada.
“The women’s health movement was very self-directed. Women banded together to work on problems with health delivery. Men don’t want to do that,” McCreary stated. “We have inculcated a culture in our society that men have to be tough, men have to be strong. Our society is very good at punishing gender deviation in men. Weakness is not considered to be masculine.”
Noel Kaludjak, a counsellor responsible for founding the Kivalliq-based men’s support network known as Angutiit Makgiangninga in 2009, will be taking part in the workshop this week.
As he explained to a media outlet in 2017, one of the issues man face is not being able to open up in front of women.
“When we sit together, we understand what the other one is going through. When there’s a woman present, it’s harder to speak up about our feelings,” he said.
The shame that men feel when openly expressing their emotions is a societal barrier that has been built up over centuries.
The Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre and the territorial government should be applauded for trying to break down these barriers in every community.
It may be a small step, but recruiting more male counsellors will benefit not just the men that seek help but society as a whole.