Friday, September 11, 2009

Canada Inuits urge action to stem tide of suicides

OTTAWA — Some 200 indigenous people demonstrated here Thursday calling for Canadian government action to halt rising numbers of suicides in their community, especially among the young.

"Canada is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a national suicide prevention strategy," said national Inuit leader Mary Simon in a statement to mark the third annual rally highlighting the problem.

The suicide rate is 11 times higher among the Inuits than in other communities.

According to a health ministry study in 2001, 135 out of every 100,000 Inuits commit suicide compared to 12 per 100,000 for the general population. And 83 percent of all Inuit suicides are carried out by people less than 30 years old.

Simon called on fellow Inuits to draw strength from their families and communities and to erase all stigma associated with mental illness.

"Suicide prevention is about supporting the development of coping skills and resiliency, and it's about reconnecting to our culture, our families, our communities, and ourselves," she said.

"I want to shatter the stigma on mental illness and make sure everybody knows it's okay to talk about it, to get help, and to embrace life."

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