More than 400 people gathered for an innovative conference last week on the traditional territory of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River to share their stories about mental health issues and further the discussion about addressing that important issue.
Following the success of last year’s, “Walking Together Toward Integration in Mental Health Addictions” conference, this year’s event was designed to continue and expand upon efforts made to raise awareness of First Nations and Aboriginal cultural protocol and traditions as they relate to mental health and to broaden practitioners’ understandings of excellence in cross-cultural care, according to the FNHA release on the conference.
This year’s conference, titled, “Together on Our Journey Towards Integration and Healing in Mental Health and Addictions: Conference 2015,” was a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Kwakiutl District Council (KDC), which FNHA Vancouver Island Regional Director Brennan MacDonald called, “an opportunity for our Island Nations to come together with mental health and addictions practitioners to discuss a path forward that upholds our unique First Nation perspectives on health and wellness.”
The conference provided “a rare and invaluable opportunity for clients of the health care system to explore mental health and addictions options with those delivering services in their communities,” according to the FNHA release. “These important conversations between professionals, Elders, youth and other community members are an important first step in grounding mental health care in cultural safety and humility.”
For First Nations and Aboriginal peoples, cultural humility and cultural competence within the health system play an important part in safe and effective health services, the FNHA release says.
A culturally safe health system is respectful and inclusive of all cultures and results in better care for everyone. Highlights of the conference agenda included Chief Robert Joseph speaking on, “Reconciliation as a Life Way,” presentations on wellness and care in a First Nations context from respected First Nations clinicians and mental health specialists, facilitated dialogue sessions and an elder-youth panel that provided opportunities for discussion and experiential learning.