North in Focus

Help support the delivery of mental health initiatives in Canada's North

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North in Focus

The Vision

North in Focus Mental Health Workshops

To date, North in Focus has created and delivered two successful mental wellness workshops in Kangiqsujuak (Nunavik) in February 2016, and Nain (Nunatsiavut) in October 2016. We are now looking to grow our organization, so we can expand our operations to more Canadian Inuit communities. $1000 raised through Polar Catalyst would serve as seed funding for us to scale up, and make a greater impact on the wellness of youth in the North.

Specific first actions include:
-Gaining more mental health first aid and suicide alertness training for our core team members
-Attending conferences to learn about the latest evidence-based programming methods, as well as to connect with mental health professionals, potential partners, and Inuit leaders
-Support our ambassador team in hosting events to raise awareness about the situation of mental health in the North, and how our program aims to promote wellness
-Officially register as a nonprofit organization

The Team

Communications Coordinator

Gabrielle is a co‐founder of North in Focus, an active photographer, and a student pursuing a Health Science and Business Administration degree at the University of Western Ontario. Gabrielle is passionate about youth engagement, and learned from Inuit leaders aboard her SOI expedition that promoting mental health is at the root of improving the overall quality of life in the Arctic.

Finance and Logistics Coordinator

Eva Wu is a co‐founder of NIF, and is responsible for the technological and financial facets of the organization. She is an enthusiastic artist, photographer, and videographer who wants to help youth understand and share their perspective on mental health. Eva is a student at McGill University pursuing a degree in Ecological Determinants of Health and Finance.

Northern Consultant

Ashley Cummings is a proud Inuk youth who has been involved in various mental health awareness groups. Her colourful background of living in both Northern and Southern Canada provides a unique perspective in North In Focus. She will be attending Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick in the fall, majoring in psychology.

Education and Mental Health Program Coordinator

High rates of suicide and mental illness have engaged Patrick on an emotional level. He hopes to leverage his passion for the North and mental health to help drive awareness, education, and youth empowerment. Patrick is currently studying Management & Organizational studies at the University of Western Ontario as a Ralph. M. Barford Loran Scholar.

The Background

North in Focus (NIF) aims to promote mental health in Canada’s Northern communities through week-long workshops for youth. Our program takes a unique approach: combining mental health education with activities relating to digital media and sport.

Through each of our Students on Ice expedition experiences, the whole NIF team has been struck by the incredible beauty of Inuit culture and the Arctic environment. At the same time, we are heartbroken to know that very few people seek treatment for mental health issues in the North. Without proper treatment, many see no option besides completing suicide.

Our project makes a difference by addressing the root causes of this problem, through discussions on historical traumas whose effects impact the mental health of youth today, providing basic education about mental health, and challenging the heavy stigma that surrounds mental illness. By promoting mental health, Inuit youth are empowered to realize their full potential and secure a better future for their communities.

The Rollout

This support will allow North in Focus to begin building the capacity to facilitate workshops on a consistent basis in 2017 and beyond.

The Impact

The goals of a North in Focus workshop are as follows:

1) Raise awareness around mental wellness, and deliver basic mental health education to high school classes and voluntary participants
2) Provide recreation and leadership-based programming to participants, boosting self-expression, self-esteem, and self-care
3) Reduce stigma and empower the community to continue stigma-reduction and mental health-awareness initiatives after the workshop is over

The impact of the program is amplified by the inclusion of guest speakers. These community leaders connect youth to local mental health resources, speak about the effects of intergenerational trauma, and share stories of lived experience with mental illness. Most importantly, the impact of a North in Focus program doesn’t end when the facilitators head home. For example, a 7-week mental health program inspired by Nain in Focus will be held in early 2017.

Here is what some Nain in Focus participants had to say about the workshop:

“I have not much to say but I can say that this week was amazing! Now I know that I’ll always be happy with everyone together…and so others will show an interest in helping you out when you’re alone. I also learned this week that it is not good to avoid big problems…Sapilittailigit – don’t ever give up.” -Simeonie Merkuratsuk

“If I can turn back time once in my life it would be to go back to North in Focus.” -Brooke Clara

The North in Focus team is looking forward to creating more positive learning experiences for Northern youth in the future.

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