The high rates of suicide deaths in the Arctic are indicators of several underlying phenomena: the trans-generational effects of colonization3-4, rapid social and cultural change and economic and political marginalization, forced assimilation through residential schools and changing gender roles5-6. Studies have also identified a link between adaptive capacities, cultural continuity, community control and action, and resilience and wellbeing for global Indigenous populations7-10.
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. Suicide accounts for over 800,000 deaths per year worldwide11. Nowhere, however, does suicide have such an impact and social burden as among Indigenous populations, particularly those in the circumpolar north.
In response to the high burden of suicide in the circumpolar North, there has been a promising rise in the number of successful collaborations between Indigenous Peoples, policy makers, and health care professionals to continue to actively discuss how to best support and foster suicide prevention locally and on the ground. In 2015, the Arctic Council, an international forum which brings Arctic States and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations together, identified suicide prevention as a priority area for international collaboration. The RISING SUN initiative was developed and led by NIMH’s Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH) and is co-sponsored by the Governments of Canada, Norway, Denmark and the Inuit Circumpolar Council.