'We need a permanent solution now': Rankin Inlet teens plan mental health rally

·2 min read
Meagan Akumalik Netser, Leonie Sammurtok and Em van der Kamp are three of the organizers of Saturday's mental health rally in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Submitted by Meagan Akumalik Netser - image credit)
Meagan Akumalik Netser, Leonie Sammurtok and Em van der Kamp are three of the organizers of Saturday's mental health rally in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Submitted by Meagan Akumalik Netser - image credit)

Residents of Rankin Inlet will hold a rally Saturday calling for better mental health services in the territory.

The rally follows a march that took place in Iqaluit on Nov. 16, where high school students protested the lack of mental health supports in the territory and asked the federal government to build a mental health facility.

Nearly every family in the territory has been touched by the loss of a loved one from suicide, organizers there said.

Megan Akumalik Netser is one of the teenaged organizers in Rankin Inlet.

She said the rally is part of the mental health movement in the territory, which has a suicide rate 10 times higher than the rest of Canada.

The rally will take place across from the Turaarvik restaurant beginning at 2:30 p.m.

'We need a permanent solution now'

Netser said a lot of mental health support in the territory is provided by transient workers who come to Nunavut for a short period of time.

This makes it difficult for Nunavummiut who share their stories, then have to retell it when their nurse leaves and another one arrives.

"It's like ripping the Band-Aid off again and trying to put a new one on," she said. "We are so done with Band-Aid solutions, we need a permanent solution now."

David Gunn/CBC
David Gunn/CBC

Netser said it's important to increase and improve mental health services in the territory immediately, and ensure the services and service providers are permanent.

She said this can be done in many ways, beginning with providing mandatory mental health and first aid training for all workplaces and schools.

She also said it would help to increase the number of mental health support groups across communities.

'Story was too common'

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who visited Iqaluit last week, attended the protest in Iqaluit. He said what stood out to him the most was the unity in the community, and the desperation to end suicide in Nunavut.

"[The youth] had lost a friend, a classmate, someone in school with them, and that story was too common," Singh said, of one of the people he spoke to. "Everyone had stories about people that they knew or that they'd heard of that had taken their life and they wanted this to end. They wanted some real support."

Singh told CBC News he supports the idea of a mental health facility in Iqaluit and is "pushing the federal government to provide that support."

According to Singh, Nunavummiut are also facing other challenges that are further affecting their mental health.

He said he heard a young man during the rally that said people were dealing with a pandemic, a water crisis, and a suicide crisis.

"We need to help not just with mental health support, funding and a centre, we also need to make sure there's housing, clean drinking water, good jobs," Singh said, "[that] there's a broader solution and I'm pushing for that as well."

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