Rouge Valley sends hope to Baffin Island

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Word of Rouge Valley’s expertise in mental health has spread far and wide. Just ask Jim Hall.

The Child and Youth Therapist’s book, Creating Courage: Search and Rescue, earned him an invitation this summer to Baffin Island from Nunavut’s Pujualussait Committee.

“The suicide rate is really high in isolated communities. I went there to speak about trauma,” says Hall, from his office at the Shoniker Clinic, reflecting on his two weeks in June on the island.

“The degree of cultural trauma there is incredible. Their communities have gone from hunting and gathering to post-industrial culture in 30 years. The rest of North America took 200 years or more to do that.”

Hall spoke to a men’s group among many other community groups on Baffin Island, which is much closer to Greenland than it is to even Northern Quebec or Northern Ontario. “Many men have become lost, as their traditional role has changed so dramatically,” he explains. “While many Inuit women have embraced the changes more successfully, and perhaps female roles haven’t changed as much, men, especially young men, haven’t been able to replace their responsibilities and pride associated with hunting for their families with anything positive.”

What has replaced those former roles is an increase in crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and incest. Hall’s book focuses on coping with many forms of mental trauma. “When people get traumatized they get stuck in wounded thinking. They feel like nothing’s going to get better. Bringing hope into someone’s life can tip the balance in the right way,” he says. “The two week visit there was rewarding to me because there are so many people to help.” Hall’s work with anxiety also caught the interest of City TV, which interviewed him on its Breakfast Television program in early July.