Last week I ventured up in a 9 seater plane to Baker Lake, Nunavut in Canada. I was brought up to work with the youth and families experiencing a crisis of suicide. Just last year in Baker Lake there were three suicides among young people in one month alone. In a hamlet of 2000 people you feel the effects of that. In the town meeting, I asked the youth who had contemplated suicide in the last month to step forward. Many youth stepped forward. Too, too many. I called the elders and the adults to surround them, hold them, pray for them.
It was a beautiful sight.
Although Baker Lake has many challenges that are unique to them, I noticed some struggles similar to us. This is not to diminish their plea for the nation of Canada to see their need as a national crisis. What they are experiencing in the North is serious and cannot be ignored. Something must be done. One life lost is one too many. But I have to ask us as well,
How long do we plan to put up with our youth suffering?
Here are 4 things I found that were similar between their struggle and ours.
A sense of numb to the crisis
While driving through the town we saw a young man screaming on a hill of rocks. Some people from the town just walked past. One man even laughed. I felt helpless to know what I could do for this young man.
Just as some passed by the teen boy screaming on the hill, every day we pass by people who are suffering without blinking an eye. We have become numb to the state our youth are in. Not even statistics seem to be waking us up. When 55% of hospital visits from young people are related to thoughts or threats of suicide, we have a big problem folks.
55%. That’s more than broken bones.
We have to stop thinking that depression and anxiety is “just the way it is.” It is NOT the way it is. It’s not acceptable and we need to stop tolerating this and do something about it.
The problem of isolation
The town of Baker Lake, Nunavut is completely isolated. They are a 45 minute plane ride from the nearest town in Nunavut, and the only way into Baker Lake is plane, snowmobile, or boat. It costs $4000 to fly up to Baker Lake, making it difficult for them to receive outside support. This physical isolation is a problem unique to them alone and a large barrier. However, it got me thinking to how isolated we are as well: not physically as cities and towns, but as individuals. Every day we pass by people at work and on the street who feel utterly alone. As a society we have lost the village and extended family. Many claim to not have meaningful friendships. Loneliness is causing an enormous increase in health and mental health issues.
Behind our white picket fences, beautiful homes, and nice cars there is a ton of brokenness that no one is talking about. Canada is rated only #25 in the world for child safety. One of the most amazing countries in the world is only #25?! That means there’s a whole lot more abuse and brokenness than we are admitting. Those kids are in your school. Those parents work in the cubicle next to you. But no one is saying anything. There’s too much shame around it. We just put our heads down, pretend everything is great, and deal with it all alone.
A need for adults to come back to the play a central role
In my line of work, I see the effects of mental illness daily. How many teachers have confessed to me over coffee they can’t continue in their line of work because of burnout and not being able to handle the pain another student committing suicide? How many parents are feeling at a loss as to what to do about their child’s depression? How many positive mentors do youth have today? People who will tell them they believe in them? That they are rooting for them?
A teacher recently emailed this to me: “As a mom and educator there are too many young people dying because of lack of supports and understanding. I spent yesterday in emergency with yet another student who attempted suicide. Two funerals in 8 months and so many visits to the hospital for my daughter and her best friend.” I had a student once say to me, “My goal this semester is to get through the year alive.”
It’s looking a little Lord of the Flies out there, folks. Where are on earth are the adults?! We’ve exited the building. They need the adults back on the playing field with them, guiding, leading, and supporting. In his brilliant book Hold Onto Your Kids, Gordon Neufeld speaks about the repercussions of a culture that allows peers to be the primary nurturers of one another.
We need parents, mentors, teachers, and coaches to come back and play a central role in our kids lives.
Mental health care maxed
The health care centre in Baker Lake is small, and overcrowded. They have a shortage of nurses and their elders facility has shut down. Where you and I live there is a similar story of a shortage of mental health care workers, 2 year waits for help that needs immediate attention, and not enough hospital beds in children’s mental health care units in hospitals. Only 20% of children get the mental health help they need. Over half of the Canadian population considers depression and anxiety to be an epidemic in all of Canada. 85% of Canadians say that mental health services are underfunded.
When we went through the crisis with our own son, we had to take out a pension of $5000 to get the assessment we needed immediately. We then waited and were referred here and there for 2 years with no help before my son’s suicide threats. Even after his hospitalization, I had to do much of the research of how to help my son on my own.
What we are doing about it
This is why my hubby and I are making the plan we used to bring our son from suicidal, depressed, and anxious to now living a normal teenage life accessible to anyone who needs it. We are doing this through making our seminars, books, and online courses affordable. We subsidize the costs by selling products like t-shirts and home decor meant to empower people and enhance connection.
We were tired of seeing this be a barrier so we got creative. We are providing solutions to the financial and accessible barriers family face so together, we can see our young people thrive. It is possible. We can see a world where youth aren’t bound in mental prisons of anxiety and depression.
You can check out our online course, the book that’s coming out soon, and our products on our website here. You can also book our parent seminar in your city, school, or church. Every time you buy a product, buy a book, or book a seminar from us at The Jakab Co, you’re making it possible for us to help 100’s of families who can’t afford to get the help they need.
We did a fun vlog on the trip to Baker Lake. Check it out here. I would love to encourage us all to not forget the north. If you’re planning a missions or humanitarian trip, Nunavut is an incredible place with beautiful people who need us.
LOVE ALWAYS WINS.
Stats in this blog came from: