Overview of mental health in Nunavik
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A major issue affecting Nunavimmiut’s well-being is the impact of colonization and the numerous collective traumatic events and societal changes it brought along. These events have affected the social and family structure of all, and have initiated a wide array of psychosocial problems that we have only started to understand and deal with.
A large portion of the population is carrying over repeated traumas and losses that lead, in many cases, to post-traumatic stress. If these traumas are not dealt with and healing initiated, their effects will be felt for many generations, culminating in various mental health problems, substance abuse issues, behavioral problems, instances of violence and even suicide.
The highest suicide rate in Québec
The suicide rate in Nunavik is the highest in Québec. All Nunavik inhabitants have been directly or indirectly touched by the suicide of one or more persons at some point in time. A vast percentage of Nunavimmiut has in fact engaged in suicide ideation or has attempted suicide. The issue of suicide is extremely preoccupying for the 15-to-24-year age group. Girls under twenty years old and young men in their twenties are particularly affected. Men appear predominantly impacted by the repercussions of the colonization process. They are overrepresented in the justice system as well as in statistics related to school drop-outs and suicide.
Overview of mental health services
While the region’s mental health services have been the target of restructuring and development efforts since the early 2000s, workers and resources are still having a difficult time meeting the widespread, urgent and complex needs of Nunavimmiut.
Local CLSC points of service
In Nunavik, the local CLSC points of service are the usual point of entry for mental health services. Basic services are offered by local nurses and social workers. Clients can be referred to physicians working locally or in another community. Local nurses and social workers are ensuring 24-hour psychosocial emergencies services.
Two psychologists offering support
On the Ungava coast, there is one child psychologist and one adult psychologist based in Kuujjuaq. They can offer support to workers in other communities of the Ungava Coast, or accept clients from other communities.
Residential resources to address acute and chronic issues
When rooms are available, Nunavimmiut with acute or chronic mental health issues can be referred to one of the four residential resources in the region:
- Aaniavituqarq, a crisis centre in Puvirnituq
- Reintegration centre in Inukjuak
- Supervised house in Kuujjuaq
- Uvatinut, a supervised apartment building in Puvirnituq
Specialized psychiatric care offered by RUIS McGill
Through the support offered to Nunavik by McGill University’s Réseau Universitaire Intégré de Santé (RUIS), specialized psychiatric care is offered to the region. Psychiatrists and child psychiatrists based down south are visiting the region on a regular basis. These psychiatrists also offer support to local workers as needed.
Some adult Nunavimmiut in need of comprehensive acute mental health services are receiving specialized services at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute located in Montréal. Nunavik’s health centers have concluded an agreement with Douglas Institute to facilitate services to clients and support to interveners.
Youth in need of comprehensive acute mental health services are receiving specialized services at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.