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Delivering Education And Mental Health Care to the Arctic Circle

April 8, 2014 at 11:25 am PST

willa_black_lo_resThis post was written by Willa Black, Director of Corporate Affairs for Cisco Canada, and was originally published on the Huffington Post.

The territory of Nunavut, Canada is incredibly cold and remote. It’s roughly a four-hour plane ride north of Toronto, with temperatures well below the freezing mark for eight months of the year, dark in the winter months and light all summer long. The communities in the north face unprecedented challenges. The school dropout rates average around 75 percent by the time students hit Grade 8. There is high incidence of youth mental health problems and suicide -- the highest in the world. And yet, there is much hope and potential in this corner of our planet. And a deep, rich Inuit culture and tradition that informs us all as Canadians. When Cisco Canada set out to build a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program for Canada, it didn’t take long for us to connect the dots and understand the vital role we could play in bringing much-needed services to our most remote communities.

On April 2, Cisco Canada officially announced Connected North, a program that leverages our core competence in Internet, networking and collaboration solutions. Our first stop in the development of our strategy was Inuit Tapiriit Kunatami — the organization of the Inuit people of Canada. Their direction was clear: Find a way to make the classrooms more exciting. Help to stem the high dropout rates.

We knew video held the key.

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The Doctor is On (the Internet)

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By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

Reading through the statistics on mental health is enough to make you, well, kind of depressed.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 26.2 percent of American adults – more than one in four – suffer from some form of mental illness each year. Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population – nearly 21 million adults – suffer from a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, and about 6 percent live with a serious mental illness that significantly impedes their ability to live and work.

And according to the World Health Organization, the numbers are just as dire globally, with more than 450 million people worldwide suffering from mental illness.

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Suffering in Silence

I was invited to attend the 20th birthday bash of the Employees’ Forum for Disability in London recently.  The host was Ruby Wax, a popular UK comedienne.

I didn’t know this prior to the event, but she has battled with repeated, severe bouts of clinical depression for many years.

Depression is one of the most silent, least visible afflictions that people can experience.  And the enduring stigma attached to mental health issues means that many people suffer in silence.

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