Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday August 25, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday August 25, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ottawa giving $82.5M for Indigenous mental health support during COVID-19

New federal funding will support access to additional services

The federal government is pledging $82.5 million to improve access and address growing demand for mental health services in Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access to many mental health services within Indigenous communities have been disrupted due to the pandemic, while some services have shifted to virtual and telehealth treatment options, creating obstacles for those living in remote communities that have limited connectivity.

Meanwhile, demand for services has surged.

In the first four months of this year, the Hope for Wellness Help Line, which provides telephone and online support for First Nations, Inuit and Metis in a number of Indigenous languages, received over 10,000 calls and chats from people seeking crisis intervention services.

This represents a 178 per cent increase in demand compared to the same time period in 2019.

Also, the First Nations Health Authority in B.C. reported last month that First Nations overdose deaths almost doubled between January and May of this year.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller acknowledged Tuesday that a disparity exists between mental wellness support available to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada and called this situation unacceptable.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation,” Miller said.

“Sustained, targeted investment is needed to ensure that culturally safe mental wellness services remain available and community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health supports are critical to the well-being for anyone struggling to cope with the added stress and anxiety that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.”

ALSO READ: Isolation, drug toxicity lead to spike in First Nations overdose deaths amid pandemic

The new federal funding will support access to additional services, such as transitioning some services to virtual platforms to meet increased demand.

It will also support Indigenous partners in developing new ways to address substance use and to improve access to treatment and it will work to expand access to culturally appropriate services such as on-the-land activities, community-based health supports and mental wellness teams.

The new funds are a response to calls from many First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders who have been pushing for more mental health supports in their communities, Miller said.

Intergenerational trauma suffered by many Indigenous people due to Canada’s history of colonialism and mistreatment of Canada’s First Peoples is already a deeply difficult issue to address when it comes to mental health treatment, said Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada

The additional anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse, he said.

The negative effects of COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions have also led to increased rates of family violence against women and have also caused further isolation of Indigenous youth and those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities.

“We all need to be standing behind First Nations, Metis and Inuit in responding to the mental wellness, mental health crisis in Canada. It is extremely important that we stand behind them so that no communities are left behind,” Wong said.

Funding will be allocated to First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities based on discussions among national and regional partnership tables or regional governing leaders.

There will also be some funds remaining to enable surge capacity and adaptation among national organizations and services, such as the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, First Peoples Wellness Circle and Hope for Wellness Line.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenousmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

Nelson dancers Glynis Waring, Slava Doval and Amanda Papailhou, and musician Nella Banner, premier Respired on April 11. Photo: Submitted
New dance work the latest online offering from Capitol Theatre

Local performers will unveil Respired beginning April 11

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read