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Guest comment: Inuusivut kamagitsiarlavut - Let’s take care of our well being

by Leonie Sammurtok

by Leonie Sammurtok

Rankin Inlet

On Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at 2:30p.m. we will be having a Mental Health Movement in Rankin Inlet for all of Nunavut in front of Turaarvik Inns North.

I got involved in the movement because in the other two territories and the 10 provinces of this country, the average causes of death are accidents or natural causes. The main cause of death in Nunavut is suicide.

We are having the Mental Health Movement to raise awareness to this issue. It affects nearly all of us Nunavummiut, it is a cycle that needs to be broken.

There are so many issues that Nunavummiut have gone through or are still going through, such as the lack of mental health services. There aren’t enough therapists in any of our communities and most people must be sent out of their community to be able to receive mental health care.

The majority of Nunavummiut don’t have the proper resources that are needed.

Most of the mental health therapists are transient workers, meaning that access to mental health services is very limited or near impossible.

Having to do the same therapy sessions repeatedly could feel like the trust and bond is broken to a lot of people; it can be hard for a person to do all over again.

There are many people that are living with mental illnesses, and it needs to be addressed. A lot of mental illnesses are undiagnosed due to the lack of resources, some of which include but aren’t limited to: intergenerational trauma, depression, bipolar disorders, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, social anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation.

Bringing awareness to this topic is important for Nunavummiut to understand.

This topic dates way back to residential schools. What happened in that time has made a major ripple effect to today.

I strongly believe that intergenerational trauma plays a big part in Nunavut’s main cause of death. The last residential school in Nunavut closed in 1997, known as the Kivalliq Hall (Arctic college) here in Rankin Inlet.

It has made Nunavummiut resilient. In 1999 our Nunavut territory was built, we have our own territory due to resiliency.

Our Inuit culture is very important. I live in a generation where I am in between the older generation and modern generation. Creating a balance between the two worlds while maintaining our Inuktitut language and culture is crucial for future generations. Personally, I understand Inuktitut more than I can speak it.

I have been discouraged many times because I am not fluent in my mother tongue. Despite that, I am learning more about my language and Inuit culture and I strongly encourage everyone to keep learning, no matter what comments are made.

Our land, identity, culture, and Inuit are very important.

A huge issue that has been in Nunavut for generations is the housing crisis. Overcrowded homes cause a lot of stress to families. Having 14 people in two-bedroom houses may cause conflicts. Not having the ability to live on your own once you reach adulthood causes so much stress. It affects mental health because people cannot have space to themselves.

Homelessness is a battle that needs to be combatted. So many people or families jump from house to house, live in cabins or would rather move to the south to be able to have their own space.

This is Nunavut and the meaning of “Nunavut” is “our land”; our people should not have to relocate to have access to proper housing.

Being part of the Rankin Inlet Housing Association board of directors has made me realize how this issue must drastically be changed.

I would like to take this time to thank the Rankin Inlet Housing Association’s administrators, the maintenance workers, the board of directors for their efforts and the work that has been done. Also, the community members that have attended the Rankin Inlet Housing Association annual general meeting that was held on Nov. 17.

Prices for just about everything are very expensive whether for food, clothing, plane rides or other essential products. It creates a barrier for people to be able to properly provide for their families. Statistics Canada has reported that 57 per cent of people living in Nunavut are food insecure. That is a total of 22,460 Nunavummiut out of the 39,403 population that go hungry, affecting many families, children, adults, single parents and elders. It is four times the national average of 12.7 per cent. Food subsidy qaqtungugaluaq but it does not help so much because the food subsidy only covers a small percent of the food cost, and it only covers certain food types.

Prices are a problem when employment is hard to obtain for many people in our communities. Jobs are needed to be able to survive today, but there aren’t a lot of job opportunities.

The mandate for employment in Nunavut requires 80 per cent of Inuit in the workforce. That was set when Nunavut was created but that is not the case. Only 60.5 per cent of workers are Inuit.

There must be more training opportunities for Inuit to reach the minimum 80 per cent Inuit in the workforce. Ajunngittualuujugut, if we had the resource to be able to have training to work in the wide variety of work-forces then we would easily exceed the 80 per cent.

Nunavummiut need more and reliable resources. Understanding that not a lot of people find it easy to speak about their experiences, I believe that more activities for our isolated communities needs to be provided.

We need recreational activities that aren’t sport-based, as not everyone plays sports. More sewing programs, which create warmth for families during our long winter months and sets essential skill sets for people. More baking and cooking classes for men and women would be appreciated by many. Programs for all ages. Arts and crafts activities for things like painting, sketching and beading. Carving programs for ulu making, pana making, soapstone carvings, small engine repair workshops. Qamutik making programs. Hunting programs.

Rankin Inlet has a lot of volunteering activities. There are various committees and organizations that do a great job for the listed programs. If we had a volunteer fair where organizations can set up booths and present their work, where locals can attend and see what there is to offer and to also gain more volunteers to organizations that people can help with, it would bring recognition to volunteering opportunities that people would be interested in. Most activities in our community involve volunteers.

I believe having more activities would decrease the amount of alcohol and substance addictions that many people face. It is the root of many problems today. Many people struggle with the issue. It has caused domestic violence, broken people and families. It has taken so many loved ones from families and friends. A lot of people believe that drinking alcohol and taking drugs are the only “fun” things to do in our isolated communities; that ideology needs a change.

Drinking alcohol should not be seen as a bad thing, but we need to limit ourselves. Drinking a whole bottle of whiskey is not healthy for us or anyone around us. People lose themselves to addictions, we lose loved ones from addictions.

Facilities and more programs are needed.

It is important to know the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Traditional Knowledge) societal values that include:

Inuuqatigiitsiarniq - respecting others, relationships and caring for people;

Tunnganarniq - fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming, and inclusive;

Pijitsirniq - serving and providing for family or community, or both;

Aajiiqatigiinniq - decision making through discussion and consensus;

Pilimmaksarniq or Pijariuqsarniq - development of skills through practice, effort, and action;

Piliriqatigiinniq or Ikajuqtigiinniq - working together for a common cause;

Qanuqtuurniq - being innovative and resourceful;

Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq - respect and care for the land, animals, and the environment.

Without knowing it, we all carry the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit within ourselves. That is what I love about our people. We are very respectful, welcoming to a lot of newcomers, we help people and families when needed, making sure the decisions we make will benefit everyone around us, we are eager to learn new things even if they are challenging, we are a community that’s more like family, we do our part to help others, we use the limited resources we have to build great things, respecting the land, animals and environment is very important to Inuit.

With the co-operation of everyone, I believe that we can put an end to suicide that affects Nunavummiut. We are strong, resilient, and caring. Our land, language, culture and Inuit are important and we all matter.

I encourage everyone to attend the mental health movement rally to honour the people that we have lost to suicide, that also wants to put an end to losing another person, mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, friends and children to suicide. It is news that we should hear no more.