GNWT: Media Statement – Minister of Health and Social Services responds to suicide statistics

Press Release

October 4, 2022

Minister of Health and Social Services, Julie Green, provided the following statement on the Northwest Territories Coroner Service 2021-2022 Early Release of Suicide Data.

“Yesterday, the Northwest Territories Coroner Service reported suicide data in the NWT. These statistics show an increase in suicide deaths in 2022 relative to 2021 and the previous ten years. The report also indicates a spike in suicides in the Beaufort Delta region this year.

“These numbers are alarming. The impact of suicide in small communities is devastating. Our government is working directly with impacted communities to provide support to residents as they grieve. We are working closely with the community of Tuktoyaktuk as they have experienced significant loss in recent months. We are also meeting with community members, including youth, to hear about the needs of communities and to determine together what supports are needed.

“Throughout the last three years, there has been an increase in residents reporting mental health concerns and accessing support services. The health and social services system has worked hard to meet this demand with culturally safe options for person-and-family-centred support for residents.

“I am equally concerned that many residents out there who don’t seek help for mental health issues. There are programs available to help them, no matter the complexity of their situation. The territorial government is offering more mental health support services than ever before. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, please reach out for help; you are not alone.

“As Minister of Health and Social Services, I am aware that many people and families are in a state of mental health crisis. It pains me that so many of our friends, loved ones, and community members are struggling. We are, together, experiencing great change. Change caused by a global pandemic. Change to our climate. But long before we faced these collective challenges, Indigenous people of the NWT were subjected to changes that profoundly altered the lives of themselves, their families and communities. Residential schools are perhaps the most glaring example of how colonialism created trauma. I am sensitive to this intergenerational pain that affects mental health, and I am personally committed to working with communities and Indigenous governments to help all people find their way back to health and wellness.

What can you do?

“If you are concerned that a loved one is at risk of suicide, please call the NWT Helpline at 1-800-661-0844. This service is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Or call the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868, live chat at www.kidshelpphone.ca or text 686868). Or get in touch with your local community counselling program. Counsellors are trained to provide support to the individual at risk. They can provide information to you and other community members about signs to watch out for and things you can do to support friends and family members you may be concerned about. https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/contact/community-counsellor

“If an individual is thinking about or planning suicide, here are some things you can do:

  • If someone is talking about suicide, it is essential to take them seriously.
  • Offer space for the person to talk about their feelings and listen to what they say.
  • Be sensitive but ask direct questions such as how are you coping with what’s been happening in your life? Are you thinking about suicide? Have you thought about how or when you’d do it?
  • If a friend or loved one talks or behaves in a way that makes you believe they might attempt suicide, don’t leave them alone and don’t try to handle the situation alone.

“If you believe the person to be at imminent risk, please call the RCMP or the emergency unit of your local hospital or health centre.

“You can find out more about all available services at: https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/contact/help-lines”

“I care about this issue, and I know the GNWT has a significant role in addressing it. As well, all residents can play a role by understanding how to help a friend or loved one in crisis. My hope is that together we can all heal.”

IHT5

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