Mental wellness symposium taking place in Canadian Arctic

Suicide rates in the world's circumpolar communities remain several times higher than their southern counterparts. (iStock)
Suicide rates in the world’s circumpolar communities remain several times higher than their southern counterparts. (iStock)
A circumpolar mental wellness symposium is taking place this week in Canada’s Arctic, tackling an issue that’s at the forefont in many northern communities.

The event is being held in Iqaluit, the capital of Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, and is being hosted by  the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut.

“This symposium is important because mental health and wellness affects each and every one of us, and it must be talked about,” said Duane Smith, the president of ICC Canada, in a news release this week.

“It’s not just the about the numbers or statistics, it’s about the people we’ve lost and those who are left behind to carry on. We have lost family members, friends and colleagues, and we have been robbed of potential leaders for our future.”

Importance of incorporating indigenous knowledge
Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's environment minister and minister for the Arctic Council. (Government of Canada)
Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s environment minister and minister for the Arctic Council. (Government of Canada)

Over 100 delegates are coming to the symposium from across the North to  tackle issues like suicide that plague the world’s circumpolar communities.

The focus is on sharing best share best practices that incorporate Indigenous knowledge and community involvement.

“We are all gathered here in Iqaluit for this important symposium on mental wellness because we recognize that this is an issue that affects the entire circumpolar North,” said Leona Aglukkaq,  Canada’s Environment Minister, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, at the conference.

“By sharing and learning, we can move forward on a path to determining the best approaches to address this important issue. I was proud to make the promotion of mental wellness a priority under Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship, and today’s meeting is an important step toward improving the lives of Northerners.”

The symposium runs March 25-27.

Watch the Eye on the Arctic documentary “Bridging the Divide” on the challenges of delivering health care in Canada’s North:


Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  The elephant in the room – Mental health in Arctic communities, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Finland:  OECD ‘concerned’ over high suicide rates in Finland, YLE News

Sweden: Bus drivers slam light therapy for commuters in Sweden’s North, Radio Sweden

United States:  In Northwest Arctic, teens lead the way in suicide prevention, Alaska Dispatch

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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