Mental Health Resources for Indigenous Peoples

by Lillian Whitaker

A guide to mental health resources and supports for Indigenous Peoples, including multiple Indigenous-led programs.

“There is not a human being on this planet that does not yearn for the deep reconciliation of the human spirit.” These words from Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, the Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and a member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council, were shared in 2017, but they resonate both in the past, present and our future.

As Indigenous (Métis, Inuit, and First Nations) people, our mental health issues can be intergenerational and deeply intertwined with our sense of identity. Colonization and the residential school system have disrupted this sacred connection and left us with a million pieces of ourselves to pick up and put back together. Spending time on the land and learning our traditional languages can be a form of healing, but this isn’t possible for many of us who have been displaced and never walked on ancestral land, let alone during a pandemic. Fortunately, there are Indigenous-led organizations working on toppling these restrictive barriers by creating specialized mental health programs and resources.

In support of reconciling the human spirit, I have compiled a list of mental health resources that offer guidance for strengthening communities and ancestral wisdom, and provide therapeutic support for Indigenous Peoples across the land now known as Canada.

Note: if you are reading this and need immediate help, don’t wait. Please visit the Hope for Wellness website to begin chatting right away, or call the Hope For Wellness help line (1-855-242-3310) at any time to talk over the phone.

Wise Practices

For: Indigenous Peoples of all ages across Canada

Format: In-person and online programs

An important aspect of mental health is a strong connection to identity. Wise Practices offers many programs that allow Indigenous Peoples to reconnect to their cultures. They offer a mix of in-community training and workshops, like the Feather Carrier training program, focused on culturally appropriate suicide prevention and support for addictions. For youth, they recently published an important resource called the Life Promotion Toolkit, designed to help Indigenous youth better their mental wellbeing and connect with ancestral wisdom.

Culture for Life

For: Indigenous youth across Canada

Format: Online programs and resources

Culture for Life is a website designed to help guide Indigenous youth on a journey of mental health and cultural rediscovery. The website is available in both French and English. They offer simple and actionable recommendations on how to connect with culture, where to go and who to call if you are in crisis, as well as approachable ideas for self-care. Culture for Life is a project of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, a national holistic healing and wellness organization that resulted from a merger between the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (NNAPF) and the Native Menal Health Association of Canada (NMHAC). If you have questions, you can email them at info@thunderbirdpf.org.

We Matter

For: Indigenous youth across Canada

Format: Online resources

Anyone who is struggling with mental health (or has a friend that is struggling) can visit the Indigenous youth-led We Matter website to find culturally appropriate resources, including videos on mental health and activities that spread awareness on the importance of mental health in Indigenous communities. They offer inspirational programs like Ambassadors of Hope for Indigenous youth under the age of 26 interested in attending a week-long training, where they learn how to promote the health of their communities. They also have a tool kit with mental health tips and resources to share with friends. If you have any questions about their programs or mission, you can email them directly at info@wemattercampaign.org.

Native Youth Sexual Health

For: Indigenous youth across Canada and the United States

Format: Online resources

Understanding the complexities of sex and gender is an essential part of Indigenous youth’s mental wellbeing. Native Youth Sexual Health bridges this gap between Indigenous knowledge, sexuality and gender as an Indigenous-led organization, providing programs like sex education, harm reduction, reproductive health education and advocacy for LGBTQIA2S+. On their website, they have inclusive resources like this 54-page manual written by and for Two Spirit, LGBTQIA+ and Indigiqueer youth on mental health resources.

Puamun Meshkenu

For: Indigenous youth in Québec

Format: In-person activities

Founded in 2016, Puamun Meshkenu is a non-profit organization based in Québec that works to empower the physical, emotional, cultural and mental wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples. Dr. Stanley Vollant, the first Indigenous surgeon in Québec, started the organization with a vision to help Indigenous Peoples reach their full potential. Puamun Meshkenu offers unique wellness programs, like interactive group walks and youth training opportunities for those who want to advocate in their communities. If you need help finding the right program, you can email cpme@puamun.com for more information.

Healing in Colour

For: BIPOC across Canada

Format: Online database and resources

Healing in Colour offers online mental health resources and a directory of therapists for Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of colour (also known as BIPOC). Afro-Indigenous Peoples face unique challenges—especially when it comes to mental health, so it’s important to have inclusive and culturally-appropriate mental health providers. Healing in Colour has made the daunting task of searching for therapists who hold anti-oppressive values easier with a list of BIPOC professionals across Canada. Or, if you prefer self-care and exploration, you can also find a curated list of podcasts, videos and meditations. To get started, just go to their website and begin your search.

Next: Meet Sisters Sage, an Indigenous Wellness Brand Reclaiming Smudging

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