I am Abbie. I was born in Iqaluit but I have lived in Pond Inlet my whole life. Growing up every spring, summer and fall my family went out onto the land to fish, pick up geese eggs, and hunt geese, seal and other arctic animals. During the summertime in the camp the men go out hunting and the woman usually sew clothing or pick blueberries and qijuktaa (a plant that we burn to make food).
“Nunavut has the highest suicide rate in Canada, but the help is just not there”
I am a throat singer. My sister Lorna first taught me when I was 10 years old. I love throat singing because it is part of my culture and a part of my job. Every summer I perform for non-Inuit people when the cruise ship arrives and we show them what we do in our community. Our community is respectful, beautiful, and kind but young people here in Pond Inlet struggle with challenges like bullying, drugs, alcohol, sniffing, suicide, and other bad things; things that cause a lot of people to drop out of school.
The situation here in Nunavut is that more young people are committing suicide than ever before. Someone is always committing suicide – every year, many times a year – winter, summer, spring or fall. Seven of my classmates have tried to commit suicide. It’s hard for me to see that. I’ve known these people since kindergarten and they are facing serious problems. When our teenagers face sadness or anger they turn to suicide because, at the time, their problems seem impossible to overcome. It seems like there is no immediate solution to the tough times.
“I think teenagers turn to suicide because they have no one to talk to”
I can’t exactly say why people are committing suicide but I can tell you there is no one reason why. We live in a very small community and the thing that is causing the anger and madness seems like it will always be there. People get mad about something and it seems like there is no end to it, so they commit suicide. From my own experience of living in small communities you have no way out of the anger. There are no activities, there is no escape.
I think that teenagers turn to suicide because they have no one to talk to. Many people have been through traumatic experiences like severe beatings and abuse and they carry the emotional pain by themselves. There’s a lot of stuff going on in their mind and if they don’t talk about it or go to counselling then they continue to destroy themselves.
Seven years ago my best friend and niece committed suicide beside our house. My dad found her and I was the first person to hear that she was outside. It was very hard to see my father, the expression on his face. It was very hard for me; I can’t even explain the anger, the madness, like I should have done more. I should have encouraged her to talk more. There are lots of questions in your head when you go through this.
I couldn’t talk to anybody after that experience, not even my family. I didn’t want to hurt. I didn’t even want to help anybody because all I could think about was her. The guilt was right there. Especially, as a person who has had a loved one commit suicide, I understand that you can feel sensitive, unstable afterwards, more willing to kill yourself over something small.
“It really hurts seeing teenagers killing themselves, but we don’t need to face this anymore”
It really hurts seeing teenagers killing themselves, but we don’t need to face this anymore. Our community should be working to eliminate suicide. Suicide affects everyone around the people who kill themselves, especially if other youth have been thinking about doing the same thing. You can see in the news that Nunavut has the highest suicide rate in Canada, but the help is just not there. If Pond Inlet had more facilities for its youth, such as counseling or a youth center, the situation might improve, not only here, but all over Nunavut. I would love to help.
And we, the youth, need to be stronger. The hardships will pass. If you’re young and facing suicide you need to wake up and take action. Don’t always think about the negative things. Do more of what you love. Having a hobby might help you face your troubles. Acting onstage is what I love to do and it helps me.
“There’s joy in my heart again and I can finally start talking”
When I was 10 years old I started doing drama workshops and by 16 I was travelling around Canada performing as the main character in the play Night, a powerful performance about the current problems facing Canadian Inuit. Acting is my passion; it shows my personality. When I’m on stage I feel pins and needles that come from being proud and powerful. I feel appreciated for my talents and privileged when I’m chosen to be a part of an act. There’s joy in my heart again and I can finally start talking. I’m happy I am here.