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Inuit Youth Suicide Essay

In Michael Krahl’s “The Weight on Our Shoulders Is Too Much, and We Are Falling”: Suicide among Inuit Male Youth in Nunavut, Canada he discusses the major impact of mental illness on the youth of the Inuit society. In “Incorporating the prosthetic: Traumatic, limb-loss, rehabilitation and refigured military bodies” Seth Messinger discusses the importance of mental stability when dealing with the limb loss of veterans.

In both of these articles, the common claim I will be making is, despite its vitality, clinicians must stop ignoring the mental stability of patients enduring major life crises in order to allow them to better assimilate within society. In both of these articles, the strong sense of untreated mental instability has resulted in individuals secluding themselves from society and in certain cases, inevitable suicide. Krahl’s article is revolved around two narratives describing veterans who endured life altering changes, but each one resulting in different outcomes due to the focus on psychological aspects of recovery.

In the first narrative, Krahl discusses the story of a man named Henry Bare. After arriving in Iraq with his army unit, “Henry and his unit commander were in a Humvee traveling to visit one of the villages… An explosive device detonated destroying the vehicle” (2131). Henry was the only person to survive the incident, losing a part of his left arm and fingers on his right side. Psychologically speaking, the injury was completely uncalled for in Henry’s mind. He states, “”There was no need for it. It was a [local] holiday. We didn’t have to be out…

We were driving down the road and someone in the vehicle saw the bomb. They (the other soldiers] were debating what to do and the captain decided to try to race past it. It was a mistake, and he’ll never get to make another” (2131). This form of bitterness towards the incident and injury as a whole have stalled his overall recovery and assimilation back into society. While he is unable to remember the incident as a whole, he states “The only thing that really sticks with me is that I was covered in everybody’s blood and I thought all that was me and I was dead” (2131).

To live your life with this image stuck in your head will truly take a toll on a person’s mental health. Ultimately, Henry’s life suffered greatly due to his injury and his inability to focus on the future rather than relive the past. Henry has allowed his injury to define him even though he was quick to learn how to use his prosthetic arm. He states that “I’m not really social and I feel like this injury made me less able to have the life I was having. I don’t like attention; I don’t want to meet people.

I wanted to have a job and no troubles. Now, I have this money (from a military insurance fund) and programs that I can use to go to school, but I don’t feel like I can do anything any more” (2131). Henry ultimately decided to accept military retirement, choosing to be withdrawn from society and rarely uses his prosthetic limb (2132). Assimilation back into society after limb loss is essential in the overall recovery of a patient. The mental instability of a patient enduring a major life crises is vital in the overall recovery.

In another narrative Krahl discusses the story of a veteran named Ronald Eiger who was injured when stationed in Afghanistan. While in combat, his truck was shot with a grenade which blasted and left Ronald with a destroyed left forearm, a shattered left eye, plenty of missing teeth and a serious amount of soft tissue damage all over his body. When speaking, Ronald discussed that a major obstacle he had to overcome was the new way he had to perceive himself mentally. He had to figure out who he was all over again. He had to adjust to all that he had lost, rather than appreciate all that he had.

Losing his left hand meant that he now had to shoot with his right, losing his eye and teeth meant that he had learn to love himself all over again even though he was repulsed by his new image. Early in his treatment he states “I can’t even look into a mirror. The way| look makes me sick” (2132). While he remained committed to the Army, he found that he struggled more mentally than he did physically. He was a vigorous user of his new prosthetic yet he longed to find normalcy in his everyday life. His injuries inevitably affected his relationship with his wife and children, his sleeping habits, and his job.

Through it all he repeatedly stated that his job in the Army made it extremely difficult for him to receive the mental health services that he needed. But as time progressed, Ronald learned to love the skin he was in and was fortunate enough to get his life back together. Both of these narratives reflect how the outcome can vary so heavily based on mental stability alone. Both veterans had lost left limbs, with severe soft tissue damage. They were both around the same age with similar injuries and great clinical outcomes but their immersion back into society resulted different results.

By focusing on teaching patients like Henry and Ronald how to use prosthetic limbs, the overall outcome becomes useless if the patient is not willing to move forward within their lives due to constant reminders of a horrible past. Ronald was willing to overcome his mental instability for the sake of his family’s future, while Henry chose to seclude himself completely from the world. Therefore, the psychosocial issues that patients endure in these situations are vital to the overall recovery process. In Michael Krahl’s article he discusses the growing epidemic which is suicide within the Inuit youth of Nunavut, Canada.

He conducts his research through ethnographic fieldwork from 2004-2005, which includes 27 interviews with Inuit between the ages of 17 and 61. Overall he states that the rapid culture change in Inuit society has left the colony destabilized within their kinship social organization which leads to high suicides rates in male youth. The Inuit people had to assimilate to a totally different social structure when the government began to control their region in the 1950’s. The forced colonialism inevitably ruined the kinship and social structure of the community. This newly unstable society has greatly affected the modern day Inuit youth.

Today, the suicide rates of the Inuit in Canada, are among the highest in the world, ten times higher the the national rate. What is astonishing is that the median age for these suicides is a mere 20-years old, with a majority of them being male (64). So what triggers the vast need of suicide among youth? Krahl states “Interpersonal conflict, unresolved grief, family instability, depression, alcohol abuse or dependence, unemployment, family history of a psychiatric disorder, colonialism, and rapid social change with cultural discontinuity, suppression of traditional knowledge and identity, poverty, and racism” (65).

All of which leave the Inuit youth feeling isolated and hopeless. With all of this being said, Krahl claims in majority of cases, the individual is typically is dealing with some sort of untreated mental disorder such as depression and this inevitably leads to the young adult ending their life. What typically leads to this depression is an unstable upbringing and a violent home which has become very common in Inuit society since they’ve been colonized. It is common for a mother and/or father to fight constantly and violently.

Even further, it has become common for them to tell their children that they hate them and to command them to go “kill yourself”. In many of these cases parents were significantly abusing alcohol and were drunk when saying such statements. In addition Krahl explains that poor parent-child communication is a huge factor within the suicide rates. In one scenario, a young man stated that twelve of his friends have already killed themselves and that he had already tried four times. He also spoke of a vivid dark past where as a child, he would constantly see his father beat his mother (70).

The mental instability of many inuit youth of modern society is being left untreated, and in return, hundreds of youth are taking their own lives in typically the same exact way, almost like an epidemic. He states “Most suicides take place during the night when the family is asleep, where young Inuit typically hang themselves quietly on the clothes rod in their bedroom closets, facing the wall on the left side. The body is discovered by family members in the morning. Not many suicide notes are found, but the few I have seen in the coroner’s files have thematically been about broken love relationships.

Romantic, family, and intergenerational relations are described below together with suicidality in the context of colonial change” (67). The mutual technique and theme behind these suicides are causing a contagious uproar amongst youth. When one individual commits suicide, their friends are quick to follow as if it was a trend. Ultimately, Krahl concludes that suicide has become a post colonial social disorder that is supported by a strong lack of communication between families and their children.

The rising number of suicides within the Inuit can be easily attributed to the untreated mental instability within this society. Both of these articles reflect the importance of mental stability within a society, or individuals life. In the first article, we see how by simply changing a mindset, one individual was able to push forward in their life and get themselves back together, while the other has spent his life with insecurities and flashbacks of the past. Perhaps if Henry’s mental discrepancies were treated, he could have been able to adjust to society like Ronald was fortunate enough to.

In retrospect, if Ronald wasn’t so scared of losing his job at the Army, perhaps he would have seeked psychiatric help for his PTSD and inevitably has a quicker, and less painful recovery. In addition, for Krahl’s article, perhaps if the government had taken notice in the preposterous rates of suicide, a mental health facility could have been opened, and hundreds of young lives could have been saved. In addition the kinship order could have been restored, and families could have been united once again, rather than resorting to alcoholism and suicide as they are commonly doing now.

In both articles, the societies surrounding the affected individuals are constantly ignoring the mental issues, even though they are the most prevalent. They are more focused on the limb loss and/or body count, they do not think about how to prevent it, or move forward after the damage has been done. In both of these articles, the psychological aspects that affect an individual with mental instability is equally–if not more important than the physical impairments.

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