The community of Baker Lake has felt the painful sting of suicide once again as two people reportedly took their own lives in the community recently.
The youngest of the two was reportedly a 17-year-old young male.
Men’s wellness specialist and counsellor Noel Kaludjak of Rankin Inlet said his heart aches for Baker’s loss.
He said a continued message of positivity and letting people who may be struggling know that it’s OK to ask for help are two things that have to continue to grow and be expressed continually if Nunavut is ever going to turn the battle against suicide around.
“Personally, when I have something to look forward to during the next day or two, it helps me stay positive and I’m eager to wake-up the next morning,” said Kaludjak.
“We have to help give people who are struggling a reason to carry on, and provide activities for them to possibly get involved with so that they have more positivity in their lives and start getting rid of all the negativity that seems to be out there these days.
“You hear ‘oh there’s been a suicide’ and that’s all we talk about all day. When we do that, we can be embedding it into somebody’s mind.
“Once that happens, it becomes all they think about. We really have to work at reducing all the negative and replacing it with a consistently more positive outlook on things.”
Kaludjak said although some are done with good intentions, when thoughts are posted publicly concerning suicide those who could still go either way see them, get the thought in their head right away and begin to dwell on the idea of suicide.
He said it’s time to start thinking of a different approach that sends a positive message.
“Positive vibes must be sent out to all our young people,” he said. “Let’s have things that show them tomorrow will be a better day. Let’s have more youth gatherings, iglu building get-togethers or hunting-and-fishing trips.
“Yes, there’s a lot of negative stuff that goes on every day. But to create more negative vibes, no matter how well intended, is not the answer.
“People say talk about suicide. Yes, talk about suicide but talk about all the positive stuff too. We have to combat it that way.
“Constantly remind youth that they have a great future ahead. There are some great youth programs already on the go, so remind them of that and encourage them to get involved with positive activities.”
Kaludjak said sometimes people tend to normalize everything in Nunavut.
He said once things are normalized, they become accepted and that makes them a lot tougher to overcome.
“We normalize alcoholism. We normalize abuse and gambling problems. We normalize everything, even if it’s negative, and then kind of live with it and that’s not the path we want to be on.
“Sometimes it seems like we just don’t know what to do about it. But you know what, we can do something about it as a community. We have great leaders in our communities, so let’s support them.
“Let’s give stronger support to the organizations that are trying to run programs for boys and girls and men and women. Supporting encouragement and supporting each other are the key words.
“Not everyone’s going to take part but many will and that also helps defeat the stigma that’s often attached to seeking help.”
Kaludjak said more attention has to be paid to the roots of the problem, such as bullying in schools, family violence and relationships young men never learned how to deal with.
He said many of today’s problems still stem from residential schools and that is also an ongoing battle.
“Our parents were being brought in from the land and into the communities, learning to adapt.
“I tell people I work with when they moved us to the communities, my dad and I were separated. He went to work and I went to school.
“That’s where so much of it starts from. But we can’t give up. Being more positive and staying that way is a step towards ending weeks where a community is in mourning over suicide deaths.
“I believe in my heart we can get there.”