The suicide of Leo Nangmalik just days before he was profiled on the front page of The Globe and Mail is a chilling glimpse into the despair of so many of Nunavut's people.
Mr. Nangmalik bravely shared his story of abuse at a healing service in Repulse Bay with journalist Patrick White, vowing he wanted to live and get past his hardships. But the 50-year-old shot himself last Wednesday, four months after the interview.
This makes it particularly galling to read the words of Nunavut's Health Minister, Tagak Curley, who assured Mr. White: "Suicide isn't such a big problem any more."
It is impossible to know what could have saved Mr. Nangmalik. But official denial about Nunavut's astronomically high suicide rates, and the government's failure to implement its own suicide treatment plan, certainly didn't help him.
Nunavut has a suicide rate for 15- to 19-year-old men that is 40 times the national average, says Jack Hicks, a suicide researcher at the University of Greenland.
Yet the current government has failed to show leadership. It must act now and bring this social problem into the light by rolling out proven and inexpensive suicide reduction methods. These include: restricting access to lethal means, including guns, prescription drugs and carbon-monoxide emissions in vehicles; increasing treatment of depression and substance-abuse disorders; and training people to identify those at risk of harming themselves.
Ottawa must also declare this social ravage unacceptable, and help Nunavut to help people such as Mr. Nangmalik. Let his loss finally galvanize authorities into action.
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