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Quebec Inuit leaders plead for mental health support in wake of youth suicides

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In Nunavik, Quebec’s expansive northern region dotted by remote fly-in Inuit villages, most residents are connected to at least one, if not several of the young people who have recently ended their own lives.

Mary Simon, Canada’s first ambassador for circumpolar affairs and a longtime Inuit rights advocate, learned her 22-year-old niece took her life last week.

“Natalie was an exceptional person. She was vivacious and very friendly,” Simon said.

‘There’s a stillness in the community. Nobody’s really talking about it.’ – Mary Simon, longtime Inuit rights advocate

Simon has just returned to Ottawa, where she lives, after flying to Kuujjuaq, Nunavik for her niece’s funeral.

“There’s a stillness in the community. Nobody’s really talking about it. People are on high alert, wondering where it’s going to happen next,” she said.

Since the beginning of the year, across all of Nunavik, where roughly 12,000 people live, there have been at least 13 suicides. Eleven of those were in one village, Puvirnituq, a small community of 1,779 people on the Hudson Bay.

Simon said her niece, who lived in Kuujjuaq​, had struggled with mental health issues in her teens, and had spent a year living in Ottawa with Simon and her family.

May improved with regular access to counselling and support, but when she returned home, Simon said, there was a lack of followup.

Mary Simon, a longtime Inuit rights advocate, said Nunavik is in a state of emergency. (CBC)

“When you look at the lives that are being lost through suicide, it is a state of emergency. If it was happening anywhere else in Canada, I don’t think that we would be standing aside and watching it happen,” Simon said.

May’s death also touched 26-year-old Nigel Adams, whose life has been punctuated by the violent deaths of friends and family. 

When he was 20, he tried to take his own life.

“My father was in the bathtub, my mother was making bannock. My buddy walked into my closet. He saved my life,” he said.

A few years later, that same friend killed himself. 

Natalie May loved to be out on the land and was friendly with everyone, according to her Aunt, Mary Simon. May died last week. (Submitted by Natalie May’s family )

Adams said he feels like the problem is being swept under the rug by the Canadian government.

“What will it take for them to hear us? I am beyond f–king tired. I’m sorry for my French but it’s got to a point where I can’t keep my mouth shut anymore,” Adams said in an interview with CBC’s The Current.

“I’ve appeared on CTV News, CBC News, Global News, the Montreal Gazette, and I’m trying to do more for us to be heard. What do we do as Inuit? How do we get the support.”

School board calls emergency meeting

The school board for Nunavik said it is doing its best to handle the immediate crisis by sending psychologists to the schools where children have lost friends and family.

They’ve also called an emergency meeting at the end of the month with Inuit leaders, public service workers and elected government officials.

Harriet Keleutak, general director of the school board, said she doesn’t want her community’s children to have to learn to cope with suicide. She wants them to be able to enjoy living.

“The first time was when I was maybe 14. I learned that someone had died by suicide. It has happened in my family. It has happened within my friends,” Keleutak said.

“It’s trauma repeating over and over. It happened during the residential school era, it’s happening again in the form of foster care,” she said.

Her own daughter, a teacher in Nunavik, has felt ripples of the crisis. Keleutak said she took it hard when she found out the brother of one of her students had recently killed himself.

The northern Quebec Inuit community of Nunavik is reeling from a recent spike in suicides. Nigel Adams and Mary Simon discuss how suicide – especially the deaths of youths in their community – has affected their lives. 28:17

Plea for social workers who understand Inuit culture

Keleutak and other elders are calling on the Quebec government to help train more social workers and psychologists who are Inuit, rather than flying a handful of psychologists from one northern community to another. 

“They come, they don’t get to know our students. They leave. We need someone local,” she said.

“Right now when somebody says ‘I want to die, I want to kill myself,’ [in the Ungava region of Nunavik] youth are put at the hospital in isolation rooms until they calm down. Once they calm down they go back home. That’s not help. That’s just calming a child who is having a crisis, without having a plan for the future.”

Nigel Adams said he keeps speaking out about how youth in his community are struggling, but it feels like no one is listening. (Nigel Adams)

Village leaders and other elders are asking for the same. More mental health support from people who understand Inuit culture. 

Muncy Novalinga, the Kativik Regional Government member responsible for Puvirnituq, has spent much of his time this week in crisis mode. 

“Social workers from the south … some don’t understand, or most of them don’t understand our livelihood because it’s a different culture. They work their own way which is good — and we thank them for that — but we need someone who understands our own culture.”

All of the 11 people who have ended their lives in his village this year are younger than 30.

The municipal council organized a meeting with local youth earlier this week, and encouraged them to open up about their struggles.

“It’s a terrible terrible feeling. It brings to us the feeling of helplessness,” Novalinga said.

Kativik school board general director Harriet Keleutak was 14 the first time someone she knew killed themselves. (CBC)

In response to the crisis, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services, Jane Philpott, said in a statement that her government continues to work to support Inuit-led approaches to suicide prevention.

“I am deeply concerned about the recent loss of young lives by suicide in Nunavik,” Philpott said. 

“My heart goes out to the families. My officials have reached out to the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services to offer additional supports as needed during this difficult time.”

Quebec’s provincial government is in the process of transition — members of cabinet for Quebec’s new Coalition Avenir Québec government were sworn in on Thursday. 

Quebec government spokesperson Ewan Sauves said: “This is a serious situation that needs to be monitored and we will work collaboratively with the affected community.”


Need to talk?

Suicide Action Montreal | Toll-free from anywhere in Quebec: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
Tel-Jeunes | Text: 514-600-1002, Telephone: 1-800-263-2266
Canada Suicide Prevention Service | 1-833-456-4566 
Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line  | Inuktitut speakers, based in Nunavut. It is open from 7 p.m. ET until midnight ET: 1-800-265-3333 

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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