My only experience with Indigenous health has been when I worked in healthcare facility in southern Manitoba in the Diagnostics department. This particular facility was the central location for all of the Northern (Berens River, Gods Lake, Norway House) health care facilities for interpretation of the diagnostic tests that were performed there. One of my tasks at this facility was to transcribe the x-ray reports in a timely fashion and send them back to the awaiting doctor at the facility. Here, I did not necessarily have that much contact with the people directly besides the odd phone call, but even as I was reading the reports and the history of each situation I became more aware of the lack of resources and nutrition some of the facilities had. Up until I began this job, I had no idea of the challenges Indigenous people have or still face each day.
I found it challenging to find an article that provided a clear perspective on the social policy of Indigenous health and culture regarding people with mental illness. A website I did find was Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It includes many links for healing assistance for those in need.
I focused on the article, Commentary: Indigenous Health Special Issue. The article expresses that indigenous health issues are among the people worldwide. According to the article, there is a tension between individual needs and the structural risks that drive the problem for indigenous people (Tonmyr & Blackstock, 2010, p. 137). "Many of the poor health outcomes experience by Indigenous people are driven by structural issues that are often outside the personal domain for change" (Tonmyr & Blackstock, 2010). It seems that the Indigenous people have been forced to change their ways of life over the past few decades. To me, it seems that the Indigenous people are forced by people of majority to change their culture and language, for example the 60's scoop.
In our last class lecture, the ``60`s scoop`` was brought up in discussion. The "60's scoop was when Aboriginal children were scooped up from their families to be adopted by Euro-Canadians and Americans. I was not aware of its entirety until that class. It was sad to hear the trauma the children faced. The effects of this was so severe that years after Indigenous elders are still suffering from emotional and psychological consequences, including mental illness and alcohol abuse.
We also discussed the Residential School event. Indigenous children were forced out of their homes and taken to residential schools. The children were abused physically and sexually and were not allowed to speak their own language. They were taught another way of life than their parents and elders knew. The children of this event were also traumatized. The consequences of this event were so severe for many that the Prime Minister still felt that there was a need for a public apology. The children that went through that era now face effects such as alcohol abuse, cognitive and psychological illnesses and emotional unrest, even years of counselling cannot erase the memories of that traumatic time for their minds. ``The negative consequences of the unnecessary removal of children has eroded Indigenous cultures and languages set in play personal and communal inter-generational trauma`` (Tonmry & Blackstock, 2010). Their culture was taken away from them and slowly it diminished in some individual opinions.
While taking care of the Indigenous people that may be affected by a mental illness, either as a result from a traumatic episode in their life or from natural causes, we need to remember to provide the culturally appropriate care for them. Each culture has different beliefs and methods when it comes to healthcare. We need to be sensitive and aware of the different beliefs. According to Williamson & Harrison (2010) there are two approaches to being culturally appropriate when caring for those of another culture. The first approach focuses on beliefs and values of the culture. It is important to remember that some Indigenous people have a different perspective that may be different from ours. Before the Europeans, Indigenous people were very egalitarian, all members were equal and there were no individuals (Mawhiney & Hardy, 2009). Their culture is still that way in many ways even as the European people tried to break that up and conform many to a different way of life. An Indigenous person with a mental disability / illness would need assistance more than ever for basic life needs. In my opinion, for some Indigenous elders who have Alzheimer’s or another mental illness, it may be hard to depend on and allow a person of a different culture to assist them in their treatment and care. Many of them may have been victims of the 60's scoop or the Residential School and may still be holding a grudge or resent them. Some Aboriginal elders may not believe in the medical care and have their own preferences for care.
The 2nd approach focuses on their social position and how this has affected their health and well-being (Williamson & Harrison, 2010). Those people with a mental illness are already stigmatized. An indigenous person is sometimes stigmatized to be of a lower social class whether they are or not. Many have suffered from severe maltreatment. An indigenous person with a mental disability may have suffered tremendously and have a lower self-esteem or emotional health.
Each individual will have different views and beliefs, and those views need to be remembered and respected. This is especially important for those with a social worker perspective to remember. Each person has a different story, different history, different belief system, and a different upbringing. We all deserve to be treated equally no matter what our culture, race or beliefs may be.
Aboriginal Healing Foundation. (2010). Retrieved October 30, 2010, from http://www.ahf.ca/links.
Mawhiney, A.M. & Hardy, S. (2009). Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
Stolen Nation. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2010, from http://www.wrcfs.org/repat/stolennation.htm
Tonmyr, L. & Blackstock, C. (2010). Commentary: Indigenous Health Special Issue. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Special Issue: Indigenous Health, 8(2). 135-144. doi:10.1007/s11469-010-9272-7
Williamson, M. & Harrison, L. (2010). Providing Culturally Appropriate Care: An Literature Review. International Journal Of Nursing Studies, 47(6), 761-769. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.12.012.