Trigger warning: This blog post mentions residential schools and trauma.
Indigenous persons in Canada have unique mental health challenges; their history runs long and deep. Indigenous people have struggled to affirm their culture which in turn has an impact on their identity. We grow up learning about our parents and grandparents, where we come from, and how we came to be, all of which is foundational to our future and how we distinguish our culture.
Residential schools removed children from their homes, disconnecting them from their family, community, and culture. The trauma of residential schools has had a devastating impact on the mental health of Indigenous persons, individually and collectively, from one generation to another. Studies indicate that children of survivors of residential schools were observed to have greater rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts than non-survivors’ children. Exposure to at least one traumatic event is widespread amongst Indigenous people; individuals who went to residential schools or have a family member that did are at greater risk of struggling with mental health.
Although the impact of residential schools can never be erased, it’s essential that Indigenous peoples be encouraged to seek support from a trusted Elder or mental health care from a trained professional. Future generations will look up to elderly Indigenous persons—it’s crucial to stimulate the mental health of Indigenous people, to reduce intergenerational trauma, and to preserve their culture.
Blog post by Anne Musiwarwo, Volunteer. Reviewed by Dr. Marliss Meyer, Registered Psychologist, and Landor Liddell, Registered Psychologist.
Gray, A. P., & Cote, W. (2019). Cultural connectedness protects mental health against the effect of historical trauma among Anishinabe young adults. Public Health, 176, 77–81. https://doi-org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/10.1016/j.puhe.2018.12.003
Matheson, K. ( 1,2 ), Anisman, H. ( 1,2 ), McQuaid, R. J. ( 2 ), Foster, M. D. ( 3 ), & Bombay, A. ( 4 ).. Traumatic experiences, perceived discrimination, and psychological distress among members of various socially marginalized groups. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(FEB). https://doi-org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00416