In 2003, I moved to Kugluktuk, a small Inuit community in Nunavut near the Arctic Circle. I had already been living in the North for about a year before Kugluktuk would become my home for another two years. I can still recall when I first learned about the local youth lacrosse team – which seemed so out of place in a land that is frozen for much of the year! The Grizzlies lacrosse program was already well established when I arrived and I soon learned about the positive outcomes associated with the club: School attendance had increased. And youth suicides had decreased.
This was a significant statistic for a community had already lost too many young lives to suicide.
The story was made into a movie and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 and has been delivered to theatres and is also available to download and watch at home. I recently had the chance to watch the movie and reflect on what made the story of the Kugluktuk Grizzlies so special.
- The team was lead by the youth. Yes, they had the support of their non-Inuit teacher who introduced them to the sport and guided them in learning, but none of this would have been possible had they not become invested in playing and growing together.
- The team gave them something to believe in. They were learning something new. Gaining opportunities to both succeed and fail. These are critical foundations to growing resilience and learning how to overcome adversity.
- Mental health professionals were not coordinating this effort. The trust came from the relationships built between the kids and their teacher. So much of what we know about resolving trauma requires trusting relationships. While mental health professionals can help us understand this process, it is the relationships that develop outside of therapy that have the most meaningful impact.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the movie, it’s worth watching. I am not connected to anyone involved in the making of this movie! I just think it has a good message and I hope might inspire others to think about how they can have a positive impact on those who may also be experiencing difficult times in their lives.