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Friday, July 21, 2017

Focus on mental health Canadian indigenous people

Mental health priorities in Canada:  This essay should be an example of benevollent leadership for the US Secretary Tom Price, because he doesn't demonstrate any compassion regarding issues as complex as suicide.  

Canada committed to improving mental health in Indigenous communities: Philpott

Preventing suicide requires achieving social equity. 

Canada has already taken important steps by investing in key social determinants of health, such as housing, education and the environment. While these are first steps, the intent was to continue investing in all areas in pursuit of social equity.

In Northern Ontaria, two more young people died by suicide. 

Each loss adds to the disturbingly high suicide rates among Indigenous youth. 

But statistics don’t help grieving families. They feel the pain and loss forever. Each life lost is a tragedy beyond measure.

Each time a community is affected by suicide, there is a flurry of activity to mobilize counsellors, engage crisis teams and ensure local needs are met. There are urgent calls for more money and more mental health workers for affected regions.

In Budget 2017, Canada's budget pledged $118.2 million over five years to improve mental health services for First Nations and Inuit. This builds on $69 million announced last year to fund community-based workers and mental wellness teams, and to ensure there are counsellors in regions facing crisis. The number of communities supported by mental wellness teams will nearly triple by the third year, going from 86 to approximately 240. These teams serve multiple communities and go where they are needed, for as long as they are needed.

In Northern Ontario, where the crisis continues to have a devastating impact, there is a determination to break the cycle of despair. Wunnumin Lake First Nation talk about the Choose Life Project. This initiative addresses suicide risk factors, particularly among youth, through on-the-land activities and programs for children to increase self-esteem and strengthen families.
This type of community-led programming is critical to solving this suicide crisis. This is why the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Ontario government are working together to develop a long-term strategy to prevent suicides, in that province.

However, ending the epidemic of youth suicide requires more than mental health care. Any oversimplification of the causes and solutions for this crisis does a disservice to the communities that are most affected. The roots of this crisis and its remedies are not mysterious, but they are complex. It took generations of discrimination to create the circumstances behind these suicides. Justice will not be restored overnight.

It can be shown by many measures — life expectancy, chronic diseases such as diabetes, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, infant mortality rates, suicide rates — that Indigenous peoples have suffered from systemic discrimination when it comes to health. Poor health outcomes and loss of hope for Indigenous youth also derive from a range of social inequities in areas such as education, employment, housing, and community infrastructure.

The current state of Indigenous health in Canada is a direct result of generations of previous government policies, including the impacts of residential schools. We need to dismantle the colonial structures of the past and reconcile our broken relationship with Indigenous peoples to improve quality of life in their communities.

Preventing suicide requires achieving social equity. We have already taken important steps by investing in key social determinants of health, such as housing, education and the environment. While these are first steps, our intent is to continue investing in all areas in pursuit of social equity.

Preventing suicide requires a transformational approach to health, including the correction of unjust policies. This work has begun. We have changed policies related to Jordan’s Principle, prenatal care, medical transportation and more. We have regular meetings with leaders of First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, to build better relationships and improve our understanding of their priorities and needs. We are responding to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Promoting life and preventing suicide requires respect for Indigenous knowledge and practices, including work done to create important foundational documents.

Preventing suicide also requires a focus on birthing wellness; attachment of parents and children; and the protection, safety and nurturing of children from infancy onward. It means preventing trauma and supporting healing for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. It involves helping young people to reconnect with their land and revitalize their culture.

While Indigenous leaders work to improve the day-to-day reality of their communities, Canada health must simultaneously address more foundational work to restore hope. This includes the affirmation of inherent and treaty rights, as enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have been clear. They need control over their lives. Canada's government is determined to support the path toward self-determination.

Canadians are ashamed about how generations of injustice have deprived Indigenous peoples of hope and dignity. Canadians must acknowledge the tremendous amount of preventable suffering, trauma and loss of life in the past. But the future is the obligation to do better, to do right. The path to health and wellness for Indigenous peoples requires reconciliation, justice and equity. Nothing less.

Jane Philpott is the federal minister of health.

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