Successful courses program in Greenland on suicide prevention | Polarjournal
Greenlandic researcher Arnârak Patricia Bloch explains what her project is and why it is important to reach as many people as possible. Video: Ole Ellekrog & Sara Kirstine Hald, Arctic Hub

Every year, between 40 and 60 people in Greenland commit suicide which makes this one of the highest rates per capita in the world. Often, this could have been avoided if those people had the chance to simply talk about their feelings and thoughts before reaching a point where ending the life seemed the only solution. A project by Greenlandic researcher Arnârak Patricia Bloch aims to offer more help and counts on the support of people who successfully overcame their dark thoughts.And she is having quite some success as the article by the Arctic Hub shows.

Tasiilaq, Qaqortoq, Aapilattoq, Tasiusaq and Ilulissat. Arnârak Patricia Bloch can show pictures of proud course participants from several cities and settlements. In recent years, she has traveled up and down the coasts of Greenland to teach how to prevent suicide. More than 500 people have attended her courses.

Normally, researchers don’t spend that much energy traveling around talking about their research. But for Arnârak, who researches suicide prevention at the University of Southern Denmark’s Centre for Public Health in Greenland, it is more than usually important that the knowledge she finds in her research is also shared among the population.

Because Arnârak’s research can save lives.

“I am researching how people who have previously attempted suicide and have had suicidal thoughts have rediscovered their will to live, and what made them choose life,” says Arnârak.

In her research into suicide prevention, Arnârak has focused especially on Greenlanders and other Arctic people. One of the conclusions has therefore been that what works in Denmark and other European countries does not necessarily work in Greenland. That message is important to spread in Greenland. “We know that suicide hasn’t always been a big issue in Greenland,” the researcher says in a interview. “But 10 years after Greenland became part of the Danish realm, a big rise in suicides sadly occured.” Ever since, the numbers remained on a high level.

But she also sees a lot of positive changes. “We talk more about it and prevention has become more visible at the political level and is being supported by the municipalities”, Arnârak says. “Mayn people want to participate in suicide prevention and have the ability to do so.”

Among the participants in Arnârak’s courses is Kornelia Rungholm from Qaqortoq in South Greenland. She has had several close relatives who have committed suicide, so the course has helped her a lot. Before, she didn’t have much knowledge about how to deal with suicidal people.

“This work is very important to me because I have felt powerless. When I think of those who have left us, I feel that I want tools to help. Especially because I have felt regret and longing for many years,” she says.

Today, Kornelia Rungholm works as a prevention consultant in the Municipality of Kujalleq. Here she uses the knowledge she gained from Arnârak’s course.

“When our fellow human beings feel that they are not feeling well in their daily lives, or are constantly sad, then they start to feel inadequate. They feel that nothing is working out and that they can’t even talk about the things they are ashamed of. And at the same time, they don’t feel that they have any choice but to pretend as if they are doing well,” says Kornelia Rungholm.

According to Kornelia Rungholm – and Arnârak Patricia Bloch – it is important to have someone to talk to when gloomy thoughts arise. You must be able to talk about them in a safe way without feeling ashamed. Therefore, Kornelia has set up a chat room for anyone with problems. Here, she offers a protected and safe place for people to talk about their thoughts.

This is incredibly important, says Arnârak Patricia Bloch. “To stay alone with suicidal thoughts is dangerous and will ultimately lead to the death. You will need to talk about your suicidal thoughts.”

But she also calls out to people who either suspect someone to have such thoughts or have gone through such a period themselves. People should be wary of signs like behavioral or character changes. She sees a direct approach to such a person as a first step forward, confronting him or her and then supporting their attempts to find help.

Arctic Hub is responsible for disseminating research about Greenland to audiences outside of academia. Articles are published here as part of a partnership with PolarJournal.

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