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July 27, 2016

(Kuujjuaq, Quebec) Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) released the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy (NISPS) today, which sets out a series of actions and interventions to address the high number of deaths by suicide among Inuit. The Strategy promotes a shared understanding of the context and underlying risk factors for suicide in Inuit communities and guides policy at the regional and national levels on evidence-based approaches to suicide prevention.

To support implementation of the Strategy, Health Canada announced $9 million for Inuit-specific approaches to improving mental wellness. This funding includes dedicated resources for enhancing mental health services; providing support and training resources for early childhood development programs; supporting a fund for Inuit-led suicide prevention projects, programs, and initiatives administered jointly by Inuit and Health Canada; and supporting Inuit-led coordination, outreach, and education for suicide prevention.

“Suicide among Inuit is a symptom of wider social challenges in our population that have emerged in just the last several decades,” said ITK President Natan Obed. “Many these challenges are tied to colonial policies that placed intense stress on our entire population in a context where people have faced limited access to critical resources and supports that are available in most other parts of Canada. The NISPS is a tool for assisting community service providers, policymakers, and governments in working together to reduce the rate of suicide among Inuit to a rate that is equal to or below the rate for Canada as a whole.”

“I would like to commend Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami for its efforts to raise awareness about suicide in Inuit communities and we are supportive of the work that they are doing,” said the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. “We are committed to working directly with Inuit leaders on issues that are important to them, including turning the tide of suicide that is having a devastating impact on Inuit youth, families and communities.”

The NISPS, released during a gathering of about 60 people in Kuujjuaq, the largest community in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), focuses on what can be done to reduce suicide risk in Inuit communities while strengthening protective factors that can help buffer individuals and families from risk. The specific objectives and actions ITK will take to prevent suicide among Inuit fall within six priority areas that include creating social equity; nurturing healthy Inuit children from birth; and ensuring access to a continuum of mental wellness services for Inuit. ITK will evaluate its progress in achieving Strategy objectives in two-year increments.

ITK and Health Canada are committed to working together and with other Inuit leaders and provincial and territorial governments to provide effective, sustainable, and culturally appropriate health programs and services to improve the health of Inuit.

“Our ancestors had relatively low rates of suicide. They persevered through hardship, which is why we are here today,” said Obed. “We must work together to support the people in our society who are struggling so that they can be strong and resilient throughout their lives once again.”

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