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Critical Review: Inuit Suicide Rate

The following paper presents a critical review of the journal article “Protective Factors in the Inuit Population of Nunavut: A Comparative Study of People Who Died by Suicide, People Who Attempted Suicide, and People Who Never Attempted Suicide.” Beaudoin, Séguin, Chawky, Affleck, Chachamovich, and Turecki (2018) conducted a secondary analysis of the data previously collected as part of a more extensive study of the psychological research conducted in Nunavut, Canada. The study was meant to identify protective factors in the Inuit population of Nunavut through comparison of people who died of suicide, people in the general populace who attempted suicide and those who have never attempted suicide. The study comprises of 90 participants with 30 participants from each group who were paired by birth date, sex, and community.

According to the article, the people with zero suicide attempts have more protective factors throughout their lives than the other two groups, while people with suicide attempts differ largely with the other two groups concerning service use. The protective variables that emerge from the environmental dimension reveal much more dissimilarity between the three groups since they were more pronounced among individuals with no suicide attempts. Therefore, the authors argued that the findings showed the need to create a more stable environment among the Inuit communities to prevent suicide. The article concluded that risk factors that cumulate over time might be the resultant of the prevalence of high suicide rates among the indigenous people in Inuit communities as well as the larger portion of indigenous people in Canada who have recorded one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The same argument might be valid for protective factors in that accumulation of protection might generate more stability over time, thus, introducing more protective factors early in the life cycle might results to the advancement of more protective factors over the lifespan thus reducing the probability of suicide.

Branswell (2012) concurs with the findings of the article by stipulating that children and teenagers living in Inuit communities are roughly five times more likely to die compared to their counterparts from the rest of Canada. Inuit suicide rates are among the highest in the world with the rates averaging 135 per 100000 between 1999 and 2003, which was ten times higher than the rest of Canada. The Inuit population in Canada is comprised of about 60, 000 people with nearly half of them living in Nunavut (Chachamovich, Kirmayer, & Haggarty, 2015). Comparing to the article, the primary explanation for this dramatic rise of suicide in the region can be understood on a structural and environmental level.

Several studies report that the high suicide rate can be explained from a historical point of view considering the historical traumas experienced by these populations and transmitted across generations. The article extends the course readings on an understanding of the indigenous population of Canada. This is through the examination of various variables from historical perspectives through the modern era to understand the issues that affected the indigenous population in Canada. The primary argument is that the colonization and discrimination of aboriginal communities resulted in many social problems that destroyed the integrity of communities that resulted in cultural confusion.

Secondly, one of the most cited issues of discussion in the article is a lack of adequately equipped mental health services to address the problems of Inuit suicide. However, Nelson and Wilson (2017) argue against these sentiments indicating that many scholars assert that the indigenous population suffers from the disproportionate burden of mental illness. They further stipulate that colonization and its associated processing are the significant determinants of the health issues amongst this population internationally. Boksa, Joober, and Kirmayer (2015) concur that there are significant mental health disparities among the indigenous communities that have been as a result of historical issues. These issues such as the past trauma of the Indian residential school system have an ongoing intergenerational effect on the psychological well-being of the aboriginal people. They lead to high rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts as well as childhood abuse and neglect that have been reported among adults whose parents or grandparents attended these schools.

The research found greater depression symptoms related to stressors such as discrimination, childhood adversity, and adult trauma. Therefore, this article suggested that mental health services among the Inuit communities might not be adequately equipped to address issues of Inuit suicide. The aboriginal communities have questioned the adequacy of the mental health services offered since mental health interventions such as the suicide prevention programs are not congruent with the indigenous culture and beliefs.

Lastly, lack of economic prosperity is among the primary points emphasized in the article for the high rates of suicide in the region. The authors stipulate that limited employment opportunities, unemployment, and plow living standards are some of the most overlooked issues among the Inuit communities. Overcrowded houses have been identified as risk factors for the indigenous population. Researchers argue that such environmental factors can act as current reminders of historical traumas that reinforce personal and public distressing narratives and undermining of individual health and community at large. Perrin, Thorau & Associates Ltd. (2009) argues that the aboriginal population is young and growing but the underemployment is primarily due to a lack of formal educational qualifications. Therefore, the article argues that this lack of suitable employment of opportunities lead to low standards of living and after that a resultant of the high suicide rates in the region.

These economic conditions have occurred and continue to happen within the context of colonization, social exclusion, and political and economic marginalization. From a historical perspective, the aboriginal economies were subsistence oriented and were organized around activities such as fishing, hunting, and gathering. These factors influenced the organization of the aboriginal groups such as settlements size and duration, the division of about amongst genders, and interactions with other groups. Surplus products lead to trading activities amongst different indigenous groups, thus, these opportunities provided opportunities such as building prestige, establishing and strengthening of alliance and resolving disputes (Trovato, Pedersen, Price, & Lang, 2015). The formalization of the economic activities and disruption of these patterns can be primarily attributed to the current economic disparities and high suicide rates among the Inuit population and the aboriginal community at large.

The article aimed to develop a better understanding of the protective factors for suicidal behavior among the Inuit populace in Canada. These results could help in determining the effective prevention strategies that could be useful for the population. However, the article focuses mainly on the predetermined causes of high suicide rates that have also been identified in several other reports. Several types of research have found that most of the study based on the aboriginal communities focuses on issues common in these regions such as historical traumas, economic disparities, mental health issues and social impacts of colonialization to the modern aboriginal communities. However, they fail to touch more on the current problems that are affecting these communities. These issues can be assessed by conducting thorough research inside these communities and identifying the changes that have taken place from the historical era and how individual communities have adapted to these changes.

Further research can be done to identify individual characteristics of each community and the most probable economic opportunities that are most fit for the population, the most efficient mental health interventions and the most effective recompilation methods that can help reduce the high rate of suicide among the Inuit population. This can be done by incorporating some of the cultural aspects and allowing the communities to determine their most preferred mode of interventions to their issues. Contrary to the article, much more protective factors can be identified by involving the Inuit population and identifying their most burning issues and the way they prefer the problems to be solved. The general overview of the suicide rates as determined by the article is restrictive and thus requires a broader perspective rather than the commonly identified issues in most of the articles. Overall, the general identification of the protective factors in the Inuit population helps in determining the key issues that affect the Aboriginal communities and thus creates a better understanding of future research. 

References

Chachamovich, E., Kirmayer, L., & Haggarty, J. (2015). Suicide Among Inuit: Results From a Large, Epidemiologically Representative Follow-Back Study in Nunavut. Can J Psychiatry, 268-275.

Beaudoin, V., Séguin, M., Chawky, N., Affleck, W., Chachamovich, E., & Turecki, G. (2018). Protective Factors in the Inuit Population of Nunavut: A Comparative Study of People Who Died by Suicide, People Who Attempted Suicide, and People Who Never Attempted Suicide. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 1-16.

Boksa, P., Joober, R., & Kirmayer, L. (2015). Mental wellness in Canada’s Aboriginal communities: striving toward reconciliation. J Psychiatry Neurosci, 363-265.

Branswell, H. (2012). Death, suicide rates among Inuit kids soar over the rest of Canada. The Canadian Press.

Nelson, S., & Wilson, K. (2017). The mental health of Indigenous peoples in Canada: A critical review of research. Social Science & Medicine, 93-112.

Perrin, Thorau & Associates Ltd. (2009). First Nations And Economic Prosperity In The Coming Decade. Retrieved from http://www.bcbc.com/content/550/2020_200909_Perrin.pdf

Trovato, F.,  Pedersen, A., Price, J.A., & Land, C. (2015). Economic Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/aboriginal-people-economic-conditions

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