A new report sheds light on the risk and protective factors for suicide among Inuit across Northern Canada. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national organization representing Inuit across Canada, have released Substance Use, Mental Health and Suicide among Inuit in Canada, which summarizes the latest statistics on substance use and mental health among Inuit.
Inuit have some of the highest suicide rates in Canada, with rates in some Inuit regions being 25 times higher than the Canadian average. The risk of suicide is elevated among Inuit because of intergenerational trauma from colonization, marginalization, and the loss of the traditional Inuit lifestyle of harvesting and gathering food from the land. The report identifies additional risk factors, such as community distress, mental health conditions, substance use and socioeconomic inequities. Statistics on alcohol, cannabis and other substance use are also captured in the summary.
The findings underline the importance of having an Inuit health survey governed and led by Inuit to ensure data reflect Inuit health and wellness accurately. The summary report also highlights the need for public education efforts about safe alcohol and cannabis use.
Key recommendations of the report include:
- More research on the impacts of cannabis use on mental health and other health-related outcomes among Inuit.
- Improving research and data collection on mental health, substance use and suicide among Inuit.
- Improving the social determinants of health, including housing, education and access to culturally safe health care in Inuit communities.
- Recognizing the importance of strengths-based approaches to limit stigmatization and inform programs that build on individual and community resilience.
“This report is aimed at improving research and data collection on factors related to suicide among Inuit to help with both surveillance and prevention efforts. These efforts are consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we are proud to be contributing to this important work. Our hope is that this report will be a key resource for Inuit organizations, people working in suicide prevention, and researchers who work with suicide risk and the broader mental well-being of Inuit in Canada,” said Rita Notarandrea, CEO of CCSA.