All My Relations
We are all of Creation and are connected – people, plants, trees, animals and rocks. As relations we need to look after each other. Once this is accepted, we accept that we are no better and no worse than anyone else or any other being. Surrounded by our relations in Creation, we are never alone.
Research shows that people affected by trauma are more likely to suffer mental wellness changes and be more susceptible to substance use issues.
The effects of societal stigma against First Nations people and people who use drugs often intersect in ways that cause further harm to First Nations people who use drugs.
Where Does Stigma Come From?
Stigma can come from a person’s previous experience and beliefs, lack of knowledge or education, perceptions tied to movies/tv, and other sources. These kinds of stigma influence a person’s behaviour and can cause them to treat others poorly or with judgment.
Stigma can affect us internally: internalized stigma makes us feel poorly about ourselves, fear being judged, and avoid asking for help.
Expecting people who use drugs to get treatment to quit with a goal of sobriety so they can access services (housing, food, safety, health care, legal services) can
- make them feel guilty or bad about themselves (internalized stigma)
- cause them to become more isolated to avoid discrimination
- increase anxiety, doubts, fear, depression, hopelessness
Stigma Increases Due To Fear During COVID-19
We may not understand the pandemic. This can lead to discrimination against people
- who have the virus and their families
- from countries where the virus originated
- who have travelled recently
- who have had contact with someone who has the virus
- who are homeless or those with substance use issues because they are on the street or moving from place to place
Stigma can also occur when people confuse withdrawal from drug use with Covid-19 symptoms
Tips For Reducing Stigma During COVID-19
- Use caution with social media and seek credible sources of COVID-19 information (World Health Organization, Thunderbird, Assembly of First Nations) to raise awareness, not fear.
- Support the right to health of people who use drugs, rather than focusing on criminalization of people who use drugs
- Support people and respect their privacy
- Try to focus on the positive
- Demonstrate caring behaviour
Draw From Our Strengths During COVID-19
We must draw from our strengths, cultural ways of knowing, values and practices to help reduce stigma against those who fall ill with COVID-19. The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum points to All My Relations as we come together to support one another, and our communities – even if we can’t do that physically, we can do it through virtual means or prayer. (Thunderbird, 2015)
Honesty and Trust
Honesty is a foundational value for Indigenous Peoples. As described in the Anishnabemowin tradition, honesty is one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings which support personal well-being and living a life in harmony within community and nature. When we are honest with ourselves, we can be honest, truthful and trustworthy with others, and walk through life with integrity. (FNMWC, 2015).
Fear of stigma, punishment, or being denied services can lead people to resist reporting their substance use, which in turn increases risks for other health challenges.
- The truth can help wellness workers determine which medical interventions to use or avoid.
- Listening can create a safe space where honesty can be expressed, building trust.
- Use non-stigmatizing language and ways of being and doing to build trust and encourage honesty.
- Some First Nations treatment centres include culture-based programs adapted to complex needs of people addicted to substances.