A recent study conducted by the Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) contributes significantly to knowledge about Aboriginal women’s perspectives and narratives on mental health.
Community-based interviews and focus group sessions were held with 46 Aboriginal women in Winnipeg and Saskatoon between September 2009 and February 2010. Research questions explored key factors influencing Aboriginal women’s health; what mental health means to Aboriginal women; access to resources and services; and recommendations from Aboriginal women for future policy and program developments.
The women participants were at diverse points along their mental health journey. Some women had not disclosed their mental health concerns to family members, others were searching for services and supports, and others were “veterans” of the mental health system. Collectively, the women envisioned a collaborative care system that includes both traditional and Western approaches to health in a culturally appropriate and safe context. The women’s experiences with the mental health system highlighted the importance of being heard, believed and treated with respect, and the need to respond to the diversity of Aboriginal people. Listening to the community for solutions on improving mental health and increasing culturally grounded and appropriate programs were also seen as important approaches.
Additional recommendations include: developing more early intervention programming; building a collaborative care model for mental health; providing more programming focusing on life skills development; increasing opportunities for mental health after-care programs; and ensuring adequate and long-term funding for mental health programming for Aboriginal women.
See “Kiskâyitamawin Miyo-Mamitonecikan: Urban Aboriginal Women and Mental Health,” June 2010, available at www.pwhce.ca.