A couple of weeks ago, Attawapiskat saw over 10 youth try to take their own lives in what was one of the worst cases in a year of increased suicide rates. Unfortunately, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has not heard of any concrete solutions or ways to methodically overcome the root cause. Natan does believe, however, that “suicide is preventable.”

Natan Obed
Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – Global News

Quebec Suicide Rates & Prevention

Since 1960, the suicide rate in Quebec was perpetually rising… until, in 1999, the province implemented a strategy to combat suicide. Since then, the rates of suicide have noticeably decreased. You can view a visual representation of this below.

The strategy that the Quebec government used included:

  • 24-hour crisis telephone lines
  • Suicide prevention training programs for doctors, mental health professionals, and social workers
  • Training programs for people in workplaces and educational institutions

The above graphic was taken from Global News.


Brian Mishara, director of the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia at the Université du Québec à Montréal, assisted in drafting this strategy. Inferring from the data above, Brian says that “The youth suicide rate… ten years later, was half of what it was in 1998. It’s an impressive turnaround.”

“The only unique explanation for this change at that point in time is that at that time Quebec initiated a series of actions in suicide prevention.”

Suicide Risk Factors & Resolution

Natan Obed credits the below to bringing upon feelings of suicide in Inuit communities:

  • Food insecurity
  • Overcrowded homes
  • High rates of physical and sexual abuse
  • Few mental health services

The solution, Natan says, is providing the same resources that the rest of Canadian society has access to. Something as simple as basic human needs – water quality and improved housing – would make a world of difference. Essentially, the government should be working alongside Indigenous communities, establishing solutions that are tried and true in the rest of the country.

“…We can only make a difference if we start having a mature conversation about this as a public health crisis and not as an Indigenous suicide issue.”

Suicide and public health isn’t just our problem – it’s everyone’s problem. We have to work together to tackle it head-on.


Attawapiskat: Suicide isn’t a ‘big mystery’ – lessons from successful suicide prevention strategies