FACE Mental Illness

Wellness - A First Nations, Inuit and Métis View of Health


Mental Wellness

Some important elements of good mental wellness include positive self-esteem, strong cultural identity and connectedness in the presence of a harmonious physical, emotional, mental and spiritual framework. In order for mental wellness to be useful to First Nations and Inuit, it must be defined by the values and beliefs of Inuit and First Nations. (Mental Wellness Framework, Mental Wellness Advisory Committee, 2002). The journey to mental wellness can be lifelong to achieve balance of body, mind and spirit.

As taught by their ancestors, First Nations and Inuit know that it is only possible to understand something if they comprehend how it is connected to everything else.  Mental, physical and social health are vital and interconnected strands of life. In an effort to improve any one of these strands, the others must also be acknowledged.  To improve the mental wellness of individuals and communities, it is essential to understand how the determinants of health, how they interconnect and influence mental . Social determinants of health include: housing; education, income and culture and are interactive in nature to create conditions that either facilitate or obstruct individual and community wellbeing. 

First Nations and Inuit can/may build on their individual strengths, and their strengths as a community and as a culture to establish and/or restore healthy lifestyles. For First Nations and Inuit, a key feature of healthy family and community life is interpersonal and communal relationships, the vehicle through which balanced growth and development takes place. This approach and its implementation in community development, has been proven to result in desired change. Building blocks for such change include traditional knowledge transmitted through elders, language, “good cultural ways” and self-determination.

Many First Nations and Inuit value wholeness, as symbolized by the circle of family and community.  Their traditional spirituality is characterized by strong beliefs in the goodness of people and their need for relationships.  They acknowledge the links between people, plants, animals, the earth, the sea and the sky.

First Nations and Inuit conceptualize wholeness to include health and wellness of body, mind, heart, and spirit. Families share and care for each other, are mutually respectful, and see each other as important. Such families are important to the development of  communities that are healthy, self-caring, renewing, and proud of their living culture and ability to adapt and thrive on the harvest of land and sea. For First Nations and Inuit, language, culture and teachings that are tied to past, present and future are the stepping stones to a brighter tomorrow. Their families, communities, and traditions teach and encourage First Nations and Inuit to live in balance, to care for themselves and others, and to restore balance when it is lost. (Source: Mental Health Advisory Committee Strategic Action Plan) 


Resources

Aboriginal Mental Health – Topics A to Z
This extensive list of links covers a variety of issues dealing with aboriginal mental health.

Aboriginal People 
Briefly describes the mental health problems of Aboriginal people. Presents facts and figures on Aboriginal communities and mental health. Includes links to organizations, on-line publications, and other resources about Aboriginal mental health and the healing movement.

Mental Health – Aboriginal Youth Network
Defines mental health and outlines some of the components that contribute to good mental health. Describes mental illness, its causes and symptoms. Suggests strategies for coping with mental illness. Includes links to related resources.

The mental health of Indigenous peoples: proceedings of the advanced study institute 
Presents the proceedings of a conference on 'The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples' organized by the Aboriginal Mental Health Team of the Culture and Mental Health Unit, Sir Mortimer B. Davis – Jewish General Hospital. Link requires PDF reader.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Supports Aboriginal people in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts. Provides resources for healing initiatives and promotes awareness of healing issues.