North in Focus (NIF) is a youth-run organization that leads mental health promotion workshops to decrease suicide in Northern Canadian communities. The NIF experience combines peer education and anti-stigma programming with art, physical recreation, and reflection activities.
NIF directly engages youth over age 12 in Canadian Arctic and Subarctic communities. In addition, NIF contributes to healthy and supportive communities by aiming to reduce stigma and connect individuals to local mental health resources.
WHY IS NIF IMPORTANT?
One in five Canadians experience mental health problems or illnesses, but only one in three report that they have sought and received services and treatment.
The suicide rates for Inuit are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average, and for young Inuit men the rates are 28 times higher.
Northern regions have beautiful landscapes, stories, and people. Despite this, colonization, isolation subsequent to colonization, poor access to resources, and residential schools, amongst other aspects, have all contributed to the high rates of mental illness and suicide observed today throughout the North.
Re-connecting individuals to their culture must be combined with increased resources in the form of doctors and counsellors for promoting mental wellness. NIF works to increase basic mental health knowledge and connect individuals to available mental health resources, as well as introduce methods of self-expression and self-care, in order to assist youth in dealing with previously mentioned traumatic events.
North in Focus was cofounded by Gabrielle Foss and Eva Wu in 2014, at which point it was called Art with Heart. Their goal was to promote health using art, so they printed and donated 35 original photo books to hospitals and retirement homes in Toronto.
After becoming aware of the epidemic of mental illness and suicide in the Canadian North, they became dedicated to serve as allies to Northern youth by sharing digital media as a means of self-expression. Patrick Hickey and Ashley Cummings joined NIF in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and the workshops have since evolved to put the focus mental health education while photography as a complementary activity.
Our Core Team
Co-Founder, Finance and Logistics Coordinator
Eva Wu is a co‐founder of NIF, and is responsible for the technological and financial facets of the organization. She is an enthusiastic artist, photographer, and videographer who wants to help youth understand and share their perspective on mental health. Eva is a student at McGill University pursuing a degree in Ecological Determinants of Health and Finance.
Co-Founder, Communications Coordinator
Gabrielle co-founded North in Focus. She is a National Scholar at Western University, pursuing a dual degree in Health Science and Business Administration. She is passionate about using digital media and sport to promote the mental health and self-esteem of youth, so they can become leaders in their communities.
Northern Consultant, Ambassador and Alumni Coordinator
Ashley Cummings is a proud Inuit youth who has been involved in various mental health awareness groups. Her colorful background of living in both Northern and Southern Canada provides a unique perspective in North In Focus. She will be attending Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick in the fall, majoring in psychology.
Education and Mental Health Program Coordinator
Mental health and wellness, including the stark reality of mental illness prevalence amongst youth, have engaged Patrick on an emotional level. He hopes to leverage his passion for the North and mental health to help drive awareness, education, and action amongst youth and communities. Originally from St. John’s, NL, Patrick is currently studying Management & Organizational studies at the University of Western Ontario as a Ralph. M. Barford Loran Scholar.
Our Board of Advisors
Melynda is a beneficiary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement who is proud of her Inuit heritage, and whose passion for mental health advocacy comes from her own experiences of suffering from depression and anxiety. Melynda is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Arctic Nursing at the Nunavut Arctic College, and was recently appointed to the Mental Health Commission of Canada Youth Council.
Youth Engagement Advisor
Ocean is from Nain, Nunatsiavut. She is 21 years old and has a 17 month old daughter. She works as the Youth Outreach Worker with the Department of Health and Social Development and I am currently working towards earning a Child & Youth Care diploma through the Nova Scotia Community College.
Mental Health Advocacy Advisor
Amelia is a Juno Award winning singer songwriter and a mental health care advocate. Amelia is co-founder of the not for profit advocacy group IT’S MENTAL, based in St. John’s NL, which rallies for service accessibility, education, and anti-stigma messaging.
Ashlee is a passionate researcher and environmental advocate, working at the intersection of place, culture, health, and environment. For the past 10 years, she has been working with Indigenous communities and leaders across Canada, and is currently the Director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University.
Eric is a multi-skilled producer/journalist with a diverse background in production, writing and editorial skills. Written contributions and photography published in the Globe and Mail, National Post and Maclean's Magazine among others. Foss has recently retired from CBC News after 30 years of service.
James is a proud supporting father and avid outdoorsman. After living in the North for 21 years and counting, he believes that going off into nature is essential for mental wellness. James has extensive experience in finance and looks forward to contributing to North in Focus.
North in Focus is a proud partner of Students on Ice (SOI).
Students on Ice is a foundation which strives “to educate the world’s youth about the importance of the Polar Regions, to support their continued learning and growth and inspire initiatives that contribute to global sustainability.” The organization takes youth on extraordinary educational expeditions to the Poles (Arctic and Antarctic regions) to immerse youth in all aspects of these regions.
SOI’s partnership with NIF reflects an intimate connection between the two organisations. For most of the team, our inspiration for putting #northinfocus was nurtured, if not cultivated, by SOI. With the positive impact of SOI on us as individuals and as an organisation, we hope to impart a positive impact on the youth of Arctic and Subarctic communities in Canada.
OUR PAST SUPPORTERS
Polar Knowledge Canada, Kids Help Phone, the Nunatsiavut Government, the Makivik Corporation, Western University, 3M, Sophie and Tarek Inspiration Prize, Buff Canada, Spin Master Canada, and Stories for Humanity.