Significant social and cultural upheavals in our society, such as colonization, have contributed to the increase in Inuit suicide rates today.
Social inequities translate into stress and adversity for families and can lead to disparities in health status, and increased risk of suicide.
Intergenerational traumatic experiences can contribute to risk for suicide, especially when they lead to depression and substance misuse.
Traumatic Stress and Early Adversity
Childhood adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse, poor mental health, substance abuse, or neglect, is linked to suicidal behaviour.
Mental distress whether it be depression, substance misuse, mental health disorders or self-harm, are important risk factors for suicide.
Acute Stress or Loss
Stressful life events or loss, coupes with access to lethal means, may play a strong role in suicidal behaviour.
How Risk Multiplies In Our Societies
Suicide risk can multiply throughout a person’s lifetime. Individually we may face certain types of adversity and also be exposed to suicides that creates a base level of suicide risk in our communities.
Some people begin life with adversity, such as
being affected by acute stress while in the womb.
This base level of risk can multiply through stress factors related to social inequity, such as poverty and poor education.
Personal experiences, including physical or sexual abuse, can further multiply a person’s overall risk for suicide.
Exposure to suicide is a risk factor for suicide. Knowing people who have died by suicide can add to a person’s overall risk for suicide.
Having high rates of suicide in our communities means that suicide touches every community member, creating an underlying risk for suicide that affects all inuit.
As a result, many Inuit face individual risk factors for suicide in addition to being at risk by living in a high suicide society.
Social and Economic Inequity
Compared to most other Canadians, Inuit Nunangat experiences many social and economic inequities, such as poverty, less access to quality healthcare, and unemployment. Creating social equity is essential to the prevention of suicide for Inuit in Canada.
1 Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey. (Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, May 2011)
2 Grace M. Egeland, Inuit Health Survey 2007-2008: Nunavut. (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC: Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, May 2010), 12.
3 Shirin Roshanafshar and Emma Hawkins, Health at a Glance: Food Insecurity in Canada. (Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, March 25, 2015).
4 Heather Tait (Analyst/Researcher, Health Canada), e-mail message to author (June 23, 2016), 2010 Median Total Income for the Population Aged 15 and over, 2011 National Household Survey.
5 Canadian Institute for Health Information, Supply, Distribution and Migration of Physicians in Canada, 2014 (Ottawa, ON: Canadian Institute for Health Information, September 2015).
6 Statistics Canada, Table 102-0706: Life Expectancy, at Birth and at Age 65, by Sex, Five-Year Average, Canada and Inuit regions., accessed June 10, 2016. http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=1020706