‘A lot of people are hurting’: MLA urges in-person mental health support for arctic

Jackie Jacobson is the MLA for Nunakput. (File photo/CKLB)

Some residents in the NWT’s northern-most communities are struggling with mental health, says Jackie Jacobson.

“A lot of people are hurting from depression,” said the Nunakput MLA.

He was pleading with Julie Green, minister of Health and Social Services, for in-person counselling services.

Green acknowledged there are “some vacancies in the Community Counselling Program,” but also pointed to a child and youth counsellor at the Mangilaluk school in Tuktoyaktuk, the NWT Help Line (including the Kids Help Phone), and other digital resources like the Strongest Families Institute app.

“It sounds all good on paper with what we are providing with regards to services,” said Jacobson, but added the issue ultimately came down to a shortage of on-the-ground counsellors.

“We need a person, or a team to come in to work with the community on the depression, the alcoholism, anything that they want to talk about to get off their chest,” he said. “We need help.”

He also pointed out that access to technology can also be barrier for residents seeking help.

“There are some accommodations available through the health centre with respect to using the phone, as I understand it,” said Green.

The conversation turned towards a mobile mental health team that could tour the communities, but the minister said she was unsure what resources were available. She added that she would work on “an expedited basis” to know when a team could travel to the arctic communities.

Anyone struggling with mental health can call the NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844. Youth under 25 years old can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, or text CONNECT to 686868. Both services are available 24/7.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.