Today, there are more suicides by Inuit than by any other group in Canada. Inuit community members, leaders and elders have expressed their concern for the loss of life through suicide.
Older Inuit often speak of growing up knowing that life would not always be easy; that they would face many challenges over their lifetime. Inuit Tuttarvingat held focus groups with elders in the four regions in 2005 to find out more about the coping skills elders used when they were growing up. The elders told us they would like to re-introduce these coping strategies to youth today.
“Coping” means being able to deal with difficult times and maintain hope, and choose positive ways to deal with life’s problems (being “resilient”). Current research shows that one of the risk factors identified for suicides is the failure of coping methods in times of stress.
In Inuit Tuttarvingat’s focus groups, elders talked about some things that people can do when they feel overwhelmed, sad, or have a problem that seems to have no solution:
- Talk to someone you trust about problems
- Change your thoughts: remind yourself that although life is sometimes difficult, things will change
- Get outside into nature, be active
- Focus on helping others
- Don’t isolate yourself
- Believe in yourself
- Learn traditional skills: you will feel proud to be an Inuk.
The elders noted that the most important values needed to survive include patience, resilience, perseverance, and endurance.
Inuit Tuttarvingat materials
Through a number of projects, Inuit Tuttarvingat spoke with elders and youth about coping and resilience:
- In 2006, we held focus groups with 33 elders in the four Inuit regions of Canada, learning about the values and methods that helped Inuit overcome problems and survive even when life was difficult. The elders’ words are captured in our report, “Suicide Prevention: Inuit Traditional Practices that Encouraged Resilience and Coping”.
- To share more about traditional and current coping skills, we published “Resilience: Overcoming Challenges and Moving on Positively”.
- In 2009, we broadcast a live, phone-in television show for youth to talk about how they deal with problems, face challenges, and move forward. This show was called “Makkuktuuvunga, upimmavunga – I am young, and I am proud”. Short videos, the transcript of the full show, and useful resources are available at www.InuitWellness.ca
Inuit Youth Perspectives Video Project