Indigenous ways of living, culture, language, and connection as a source for mental wellness for individuals, families, and community
TITLE: Indigenous Ways of Living, Culture, Language, and Connection as a Source for Mental Wellness for Individuals, Families, and Community INTRODUCTION: Canada’s Indigenous peoples experience a disproportionate burden of mental health conditions, including significantly higher rates of suicide, depression, and substance use problems than the general population. While a number of studies have investigated patterns of mental health conditions across First Nations populations in Canada and predictors of mental wellness, very few studies have explored from the perspectives of community members, the factors that work to protect and promote mental wellness. Hence, the objective of this qualitative study was to investigate the way members of a tribal council and a remote, fly-in Saulteaux community in Manitoba understand how family and community environments protect and promote mental wellness. METHOD: This study was guided by a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. This study was framed by Indigenous methodological research design principles and utilized a modified grounded theory approach for thematic analysis and data organization. A combination of purposive and snowball sampling was employed to recruit a total of 17 participants from a First Nation Tribal Council and a First Nations community located within the Tribal Council area (Manitoba). Interviews were conducted using a conversational approach with open-ended, semi-structured interview questions to prompt conversation and facilitate participant and researcher co-creation of knowledge. RESULTS: Three intertwining thematic areas arose around participants’ understandings of community wellness and mental wellness: Anishinaabe ways of living; connection and relationships; and making meaning. Importantly, discussions of Anishinaabe culture, spirituality, and language intersected each of these themes in crucial ways, along with notions of change and loss attributed to historical and on-going colonizing forces. CONCLUSION: Mental health promotion and policy with Indigenous communities should consider incorporating activities that promote and protect Indigenous culture, spirituality and language as an important means of building community unity and promoting collective healing from the impacts of colonization on community and family wellness, as well as the mental wellness of individuals.