Media reports concerning recent teen deaths ‘hurtful and disrespectful’
The Nunatsiavut Government is expressing concerns over media reports suggesting that the recent deaths of three Labrador teenagers represent a “new trend in the North”.
“First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these young people, as well to those who have lost loved ones in the past,” says Health and Social Development Minister Patricia Kemuksigak. “This is a very difficult time, and no words can take away the pain being felt by those who are touched by these tragedies.”
Minister Kemuksigak says she is disturbed with particular comments made to the CBC earlier this week by Labrador MP Yvonne Jones, suggesting the recent deaths were different from those in the past in that “these young people come from very stable homes” and have “very supportive and loving family members around them”. The comments, says the Minister, have opened up many wounds and undermine the work that has been done throughout Labrador in dealing with suicide and mental health.
“There is no doubt that the families impacted by these recent tragedies were supportive, caring families and loved their children,” she says. “However, to imply that those who took their lives in the past did not come from stable homes or did not have supportive and loving families is very hurtful and disrespectful.”
“People in our communities are grieving and trying to come to terms with the impact of these recent deaths, as well as the deaths of other young people over the years,” adds Minister Kemuksigak. “There are many reasons why people take their own lives, including mental health issues such as depression, addiction, relationship breakup, bullying, past abuse, intergenerational trauma, and so on. Many times these deaths cannot be explained and families are left with no real answers. Suicides have taken place in many supportive and loving families in the past, so it is very inappropriate to suggest the recent deaths represents a new trend.”
Following a high rate of suicide in Labrador in 2000, particularly in the Inuit communities, a number of programs, services and initiatives have been implemented by the Nunatsiavut Government – in collaboration with federal and provincial government departments and agencies, the Innu Nation, and community groups and organizations – in an attempt to deal with the issue.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work done over the years and there are many supports currently in place,” notes Minister Kemuksigak. “As a result, we have seen a steady decline in suicide rates and attempts in recent years.”
It’s important to remain supportive and non-judgmental when faced with the issue of suicide, says the Minister, in order to help alleviate the stigma that surrounds the issue.
“The factors contributing to suicide are multi-faceted and complex, involving personal characteristics, situations, social networks and a wide range of social determinants of health,” she says. “To suggest there is a new trend when it comes to suicide in Labrador shows a complete lack of understanding about the whole issue.
“We recognize that there is much more to be done and we appreciate the MP’s willingness to support the communities by bringing awareness to the federal Minister of Health, but she has to realize that we need to be partners in addressing this issue.”