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Suicide among indigenous people is increasing

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Ande Somby, a local Sámi artist and employee at the University of Tromsø..

Indigenous people living within the arctic region have a higher risk for suicide. This risk increases for adolescents. The combination of higher suicide rates amongst indigenous communities and the rapidly increasing number of suicides within many of the arctic countries are a pressing concern for a project looking at the effect of possible interventions.


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In May 2014, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health hosted a workshop for the project “The evidence-base for promoting mental wellness and resilience to address suicide in circumpolar communities” at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway.

Promoting resilience and well-being

The two research teams in the project are funded by the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), as part of the Arctic Council. The objective of the project is to work with community leaders, circumpolar communities, policymakers and researchers to determine the effectiveness of existing programmes, interventions and activities focused on promoting resilience and well-being.

The project will result in evidence that will be shared with Arctic Council member states and indigenous circumpolar communities on the type, effectiveness, scalability and cultural appropriateness of interventions in the following areas: 

  • Fostering child and youth resilience to protect mental health
  • Enhancing protective factors for children, youth and their families including social, cultural and environmental factors 
  • Reducing risk factors known to impact mental well-being across the life course.
 
 
Doug Klassen, executive secretary of the SDWG, gave background information on the project

Participants included 34 representatives from academia, the indigenous communities and politicians from four of the collaborating countries; Canada, Denmark /Greenland, Norway and the United States of America.

This workshop was an opportunity for the researchers and interested stakeholders to share research and experiences from existing programmes and to agree on the approaches and the way forward.

The workshop also included elements of Sámi culture with spiritual stories and yoiks from Ande Somby, a Sámi artist and employee at the University of Tromsø. Per Henrik Bergkvist, a Swedish reindeer herder, gave an authentic and moving presentation where he spoke openly about the tough challenges in his life and the importance of the project objectives.

 
   
Ann Ragnhild Broderstad.jpg
Dianne Kinnon, the representative of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, reminded everyone of the importance of keeping the project within an indigenous context and of knowledge translation into community practices. Ann Ragnhild Broderstad from the Centre for Sámi Health Research, UiT, The Arctic University of Norway

The workshop ended with “Daniel’s yoik” composed and performed by the young Swedish reindeer herder, Jon Henrik Fjällgren, the winner of the Swedish talent contest 2014.

Presentations

  • Om Tromsø - Anne Husebekk
    Anne Husebekk, Principal, the University of Tromsø
  • Suicide prevention and research at the NIPH - Anne Reneflot:
    Anne Reneflot, Department Director, Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH)
  • Nuuk Hope and Resilience - Christina VL Larsen:
    Post Doc. Christina V.L. Larsen, University of Greenland
  • Overview of the SDWG project: 
    • Evidence-base for promoting mental wellness and resilience to address suicide in circumpolar communities - Doug Klassen, SDWG, Remarks by the SDWG Executive Secretary (Policy context and purpose of project)
    • Evidence-base for promoting mental wellness and resilience to address suicide in circumpolar communities - Malcolm King, CIHR, Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
    • Nancy Porteous, Executive Director, Centre for Health Promotion, Public Health Agency of Canada
    • Evidence-base for promoting mental wellness and resilience to address suicide in circumpolar communities - Dianne Kinnon, ICC Canada, Inuit Circumpolar Council representative
    • SDWG Arctic Human Health Expert Group - Ann Ragnhild Broderstad, UIT, Academic Director, Centre for Sami Health Research, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
  • Overview of research project by Team A:
    Mental Well-Being and Suicide Prevention in Circumpolar Regions: Developing the Evidence Base and Identifying Promising Practices - Susan Chatwood (Team A)
    Dr. Susan Chatwood, Institute for Circumpolar Health Research (ICHR), Canada
  • Overview of research project by Team B:
    RASP: Resilience and suicide prevention project
    Dr. Eduardo Chachamovich, Douglas Mental Health Institute, Canada
  • Key note speech: Using best practices - Dianne Kinnon, ICC Canada
    Dianne Kinnon, Kinnon Consulting
  • Key note speech: Best practices in promoting mental wellness and resilience to address suicide in circumpolar communities 
    Psychologist Jon Petter Stoor and Per-Henrik Berqvist, Reindeer herder from Jovnevaerie Sámi community:
  • Presentation of scientific research and challenges in Circumpolar Communities
    • Dr. Caroline Tait, University of Saskatchewan (presentation held without slides)
    • Suicide among Sami in Northern Norway - Ann Silviken, Sami National Centre for Mental Health, Centre for Saami Health Research, UiT The Arctic University of Norway/ Saami National Competence Centre, Finnmark hospital 
    • Community Action for Suicide Prevention in Nunavut, Canada - Michael J Kral, Wayne State University, University of Illinois

Norwegian partners in the project