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After 12 suicides in 3 years, Inuvik rallies to end the silence

09/11/2014 08:59 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST
People in Inuvik, N.W.T., gathered on the evening of World Suicide Prevention Day to try to bring a dark issue into the light: in the last three years, 12 people in the community of 3,300 have taken their own lives. ​

The message was simple: end the silence.

"It's not a pleasant topic," said Doug Robertson of Aurora College, addressing the crowd. "But if it's something that we ignore and hope that it doesn't happen in our family, then that's no solution."

Government statistics show half of the 30 people who died by suicide in the territory in the last three years lived in the Beaufort Delta. 

"People have to know they are not alone," says Karra Dillon. She's training to be a personal support worker helping those suffering from physical and mental illness, but says others don't need a certificate to help others.

"We do it on a day to day basis without even knowing."

That could include checking in with  friends, she says, even when they seem Okay, and talking about suicide as if it was like any other illness.

Norman Snowshoe: 'I myself had issues'

The Gwich'in Tribal Council's acting president Norman Snowshoe also spoke at the rally, saying he has struggled with mental illness in the past.

"I myself had my issues with alcohol, to the point where I was actually contemplating suicide myself. And that's a very scary position to be in," he said.

"I recognized that this was very serious. And I found a counsellor to help me get through this phase in my life."

Snowshoe says he shared his own personal story so that others would know they are not alone.

He said people can no longer be silent about mental illness.

Snowshoe says he has stopped consuming alcohol, but every day is a constant struggle for him.

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