Conference investigates high male youth suicide rates

arcticAn international conference held in Nuuk has sought to understand why so many young men in the circumpolar region take their own lives.

Despite declining overall rates in recent years, in Greenland and in other Arctic territories, around two-thirds of all suicides are performed by young males aged 15-25. Siku News reports that the statistics have seen Maliina Abelsen, Greenland’s social minister, call for additional research into the lives of young men. “We need to find out more about how our boys are doing,” said Abelsen, Greenland’s representative at the conference on teen suicide. “Why is it, for example, girls who finish their educations?” she asked.

One suggestion for the high suicide rate has been the social taboos which limit young males displaying emotion according to feedback from teens in Alaska, Nunavut, Greenland and the Norwegian Saami. Young people attending the conference also implied that parental intervention into personal problems could be better managed.

The role of the indigenous Arctic male has also changed as society has developed, with the traditional hunter gatherer figure no longer seen as an essential in modern development.

Greenland will continue with its push on prevention efforts even though rates have fallen. Fifty-eight Greenlanders committed suicide in 2006, a figure which dropped to 38 in 2007 and to 35 last year with further declines predicted for 2009, although authorities point out that this does not mean that the curve is necessarily broken.

“I hope it continues. But we have to wait some years before we can speak of a trend,” said Office of Prevention spokesperson Jette Eistrup, adding that forecasting was difficult to do based on small numbers.

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