The Qaujigiartit Health Centre is located in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, Canada.
Ceporah Mearns and Nancy Mike, as part of the Arctic Connections online series of talks for 2020, introduced the work of this inspiring health centre to an audience from Scotland and beyond.
Traditional Inuit knowledge and values are at the core of the work of Qaujigiartit. Children, families and communities are at the heart of what they do – ‘being heart centred’.
Ceporah explained about the trauma in the communities from the policy in the recent past where children were removed from homes to be put into residential ‘education’ centres. This breaking up of families in an attempt to destroy a culture continues to have a destructive impact to this day.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were removed, often against their will, from their families and communities and put into schools, where they were forced to abandon their traditions, cultural practices and languages. History of Residential Schools
The Qaujigiartit Health Centre deals with issues arising from overcrowding, poverty and a high cost of living but they do this by ‘harnessing the strength of our communities’ explained Ceporah.
‘We are people from our communities,’ she continued. Supporting child rearing, youth mental health work and education, the centre is working with and in its community.
Nancy Mike reflected on the importance of ‘building time for healing’ and the ‘sense of belonging.’ Colonisation sought to destroy the Inuit culture. Nancy explained about the power and meaning of story telling – and of songs – building on those strengths within the community.
The presentation was one of several in this online event with its focus on ‘Mental Wellbeing in Rural Communities’ for Arctic Connections.
Jon Peter Stoor spoke of his project on suicide prevention within the Sami communities spanning over northern Norway, Sweden and Finland.
With not much resources and a small grant, Jon’s project was Sami specific with a focus on the men in the community.
The Sami have, like the Inuit, been subjected to historical trauma and attempts to destroy their cultural identity. Jon explained that the Sami are ‘not in control of things developing in their own lands’. Factors such as developing renewables with wind farms , mining etc are a threat to the Sami traditional way of life and in particular reindeer herding.
Jon’s project highlighted the importance of strengthening cultural identity and self determination.
These two examples: Qaujigirtit Health Centre and Suicide Prevention in the Sami – were both inspiring and illuminating. The importance of local solutions, culture identity, values, respect for others and the power of self-determination for communities.
We have much to learn in Scotland from others about a localised approach to addressing mental health issues.
The National Rural Mental Health Forum was set up in Scotland as a result of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy (2017 – 2027
Jim Hume explained that in Scotland the term ‘rural’ refers to most of the land areas and to nearly 1 million people. The issues affecting the islands and rural areas are mainly shared ones including the lack of public transport but in particular for mental health it is the barrier of ‘stigma’. In smaller communities it is very difficult to have anonymity and the phrase ‘it’s ok to be not ok’ is a vital one especially as Covid restrictions have highlighted mental health as never before.
What people want is to be looked after locally, commented Jim.
Ross Halley, from the Highlands and Islands Connections project, was based on the Scottish mainland but it focused on the Western Isles and Argyle and Bute. Ross stressed the importance of ‘place making for well being’ – again the strength of community led mental health strategies.
You can view some of their work here
Reporter: Fiona Grahame