“Mental health is a sign of balance, harmony and connectedness among the interior aspects of the human person (spirit, mind and body) and the world he or she lives in. It is a characteristic of families and communities, as well as individual human beings.”– Charting the future of Native mental health in Canada: Ten-year strategic plan 2007–2017 (NMHAC)
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The Native Mental Health Association of Canada (NMHAC) joined with the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (NNAPF) on June 25, 2015 to form the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. In recognition of this historic transformative step the NMHAC has chosen to rename their organization to more accurately reflect their efforts to promote Indigenous holistic approaches to healing and wellness with the First Peoples of Canada. As a partner of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, the NMHAC is now called the First Peoples Wellness Circle.
The First Peoples Wellness Circle has a vision, mission, and long-term plan to promote and enhance native mental health in Canada based on Indigenous worldview which is a unique perspective that differs significantly from Western conceptions of mental illness and mental health.
A Canada where First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and communities embrace physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellness while maintaining their diverse cultural and traditional values and beliefs so that we may share the same social justice and economic opportunities as all other Canadians.
The First Peoples Wellness Circle builds on knowledge, history, legacy, aspirations, and the spirit of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to foster and promote wellness and whole health of all peoples. It promotes and supports champions of mental wellness.
Values and Guiding Principles
- Respect: The inherent worth of all people is implicit in all the work done by the First Peoples Wellness Circle.
- Honouring and including: Inclusiveness and diversity are honoured, and the First Peoples Wellness Circle is open to contributions from all those dedicated to health and wellness.
- Sharing and caring: The First Peoples Wellness Circle is committed to creating environments where caring and sharing occur.
- Connectedness: The First Peoples Wellness Circle believes in the connectedness of all people to each other and to spirit, the land, and its resources.
- The Circle of Life: The First Peoples Wellness Circle values people of all ages, the ceremonies that celebrate people as they move from one stage of life to another, and the spirits of our ancestors.
- Cultural safety and Cultural Competency: In a health care relationship, cultural safety begins with the practitioner. The practitioner must recognize structural inequities and power imbalances, and understand and challenge their role. Cultural safety includes openness to participating in cultures other than the one we are born into. It also includes owning our inherited cultural history and biases, and being aware of how these influence our beliefs, perceptions and actions. This increases our ability to relate to other people as whole human beings.
- Literacy: Literacy is about communicating, interpreting and translating messages; relationship building; transfer of knowledge; and awareness. Inherent in this is mental health literacy.
- Personal and community empowerment: Empowerment comes from a secure sense of personal and cultural identity, and is central to healing. The First Peoples Wellness Circle supports all processes, practices and tools of knowledge that assist people and communities to build on their own knowledge and strengths to empower themselves.
- Walking with grandmothers and grandfathers: The First Peoples Wellness Circle values the experience and wisdom of Elders and their vital role in transmitting culture.
- Collaboration: People demonstrate collaboration when they agree on a mutually important project and work together cooperatively for its realization.
- Valuing the knowledge of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures: The First Peoples Wellness Circle values the knowledge, values and practices of Indigenous peoples within Canada and around the world. As we put values into practice, we model culturally good ways; we walk the talk.
- Youth: The First Peoples Wellness Circle is committed to improving its understanding of child and youth realities and to creating a safe environment for youth to become active members of the Association.
Strategic initiatives for enhancing the mental health of Indigenous people in Canada
Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention
Thunderbird Partnership Foundation
Mood Disorders Society of Canada
Assembly of First Nations
Chiefs of Ontario
First Nation and Inuit Health Branch – Health Canada