Sharing Hope. Circumpolar Perspectives on Promising Practices for Promoting Mental Wellness and Resilience.

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Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)
SDWG , Mental wellness , Circumpolar communities , Suicide prevention , Resilience
Suicide in circumpolar regions is a pressing health policy concern and is understood within a complex socio-economic historical context of the Arctic’s Indigenous Peoples. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that suicide accounts for over 800,000 deaths per year worldwide (WHO, “Preventing Suicide: A global imperative”, 2014). Nowhere, however, does suicide have such an impact and social burden as among indigenous populations, particularly those in circumpolar regions. Historically, Indigenous Peoples in circumpolar regions had very low rates of suicide deaths. Unfortunately, suicide rates in the Arctic are currently among the highest in the world. Youth are especially at risk. Yet it is Indigenous Peoples, collaborating with government agencies and health care providers, who have been working passionately and diligently towards suicide prevention for decades across the Arctic. Increasingly, it is also the creativity, strength and resilience of Arctic youth that light the path of renewal in circumpolar mental health. With their openness and generosity of spirit at gatherings like the ‘Nuuk Hope and Resilience: Suicide Prevention in the Arctic’ conference in 2009 and their ongoing involvement with research projects across the circumpolar region, young people remind us that enough is known about the problem; it is now time to focus on the solutions. At the practical level, governments, Indigenous Peoples and health professionals continue to actively discuss how to best support and foster suicide prevention locally and on the ground. The Sharing Hope report represents an important step forward in identifying what works, for whom and under what circumstances. It draws on the main findings from two international research teams who have taken a community-focused approach—one that marries what we know from the science with what is known at the community level—to better understand the challenges facing Indigenous Peoples and how their successes can be shared with and replicated in other circumpolar communities.