Via CBC News: Quebec Inuit leaders plead for mental health support in wake of youth suicides. Excerpt from a very grim story:
In Nunavik, Quebec's expansive northern region dotted by remote fly-in Inuit villages, most residents are connected to at least one, if not several of the young people who have recently ended their own lives.
Mary Simon, Canada's first ambassador for circumpolar affairs and a longtime Inuit rights advocate, learned her 22-year-old niece took her life last week.
"Natalie was an exceptional person. She was vivacious and very friendly," Simon said.
Simon has just returned to Ottawa, where she lives, after flying to Kuujjuaq, Nunavik for her niece's funeral.
"There's a stillness in the community. Nobody's really talking about it. People are on high alert, wondering where it's going to happen next," she said.
Since the beginning of the year, across all of Nunavik, where roughly 12,000 people live, there have been at least 13 suicides. Eleven of those were in one village, Puvirnituq, a small community of 1,779 people on the Hudson Bay.
Simon said her niece, who lived in Kuujjuaq, had struggled with mental health issues in her teens, and had spent a year living in Ottawa with Simon and her family.
May improved with regular access to counselling and support, but when she returned home, Simon said, there was a lack of followup.
"When you look at the lives that are being lost through suicide, it is a state of emergency. If it was happening anywhere else in Canada, I don't think that we would be standing aside and watching it happen," Simon said.
May's death also touched 26-year-old Nigel Adams, whose life has been punctuated by the violent deaths of friends and family.
When he was 20, he tried to take his own life. "My father was in the bathtub, my mother was making bannock. My buddy walked into my closet. He saved my life," he said.
A few years later, that same friend killed himself.