Her observations are in line with something psychologists and sociologists think is fundamental to the causes of suicide in Greenland. When communities are disrupted, like Kangeq was, families start to collapse. There’s an increase in alcoholism, child neglect and physical abuse, all of which are risk factors for suicide. Later, people who didn’t get the love and support they needed as children find it difficult to cope with the routine heartbreak of dating, and a breakup becomes the final insult in a lifetime of hurt.
“There are a lot of negative consequences to rapid modernization,” says Greenlandic sociologist Steven Arnfjord. “We’re still dealing with a lot of aftermath from policies of the ’70s and ’80s.”
There’s also something broader — a loss of identity that happens when a culture, in this case Inuit culture, is demonized and broken down. When a culture is largely erased over less than a generation, as it was in Greenland, a lot of young people feel cut off from the older generations, but not really part of the new one. It’s especially difficult for young men, whose fathers and grandfathers were hunters, and who struggle to understand what it means to be an urban Inuit man. Without strong families and communities to help them cope, some of them are so overwhelmed and lost, they take their own lives.