Discuss suicides openly, advocates urge | Inuit Nunangat Stories | Scoop.it

t's common for one suicide to trigger another in Arctic communities, said Susan Aglukark, seen here in 2006. She will take part in a concert to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

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Suicide is one of the last truly taboo topics, the shameful secret that few want to talk about and that silence can inadvertently lead to people taking their own lives.

Mental health advocates say that while the recent highly publicized suicides of several prominent sports figures have shone a spotlight on the issue, the lack of frank public discussion about causes and prevention is leaving those at risk for suicide and their loved ones as much in the dark as ever

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Statistics show that suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations and Inuit than for non-Aboriginal youth. Among Inuit youth alone, the suicide rate is 11 times the national average.

Aglukark said young people — among them children as young as 12 or 13 — are most at risk for taking their own lives for all the reasons "we hear about" — poverty, inadequate housing, substandard education, substance abuse, family violence, and the list goes on.

"It's very common for one suicide to trigger another, and to trigger another, in communities. They're so isolated, they're so far away," said the singer, who is also chair of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, a group whose mandate is to improve the lives of young Aboriginals in Canada's North.

"I think part of the problem is they get caught up and stuck in the cycle of despair. How do you move on? How do you have closure when you're caught up in a constant, steady crisis?" Aglukark said.

"It's heartbreaking to know what needs to happen and to be powerless to see it happen fast enough."