Reprinted from "Aboriginal People" issue of Visions Journal, 2008, 5 (1), p. 3
This issue of Visions stirs new ground like no other issue has. If you identify yourself as Aboriginal, First Nation, Inuit or Métis, you will likely find much that resonates with you in the stories ahead. If you don’t identify yourself that way, you will still learn a lot from this issue about the role of identity, culture, empowerment and community. If you’re a service provider and don’t provide care even sometimes to members of the Aboriginal community, you may want to ask yourself why, after reading this issue. (And service providers especially, be aware that many of the insights raised will excite you, make you think about the way that our systems are designed, and turn some of your training on its head.)
One of the things that struck me and our editorial team the most was a reminder that there is no one way to think about mental health, mental illness, substance use and addictions. In the Western world, and our medical and treatment models, we have become so used to seeing illness as illness, as separate, as disease, and not seeing the whole person as part of a family, a community, a history and a worldview. At its most basic level, you will see instantly that many of the articles in this issue don’t use the words that we, in the mental health and addictions fields, are used to. You’ll often not even see the words ‘mental illness’ or ‘addiction’ used. Our amazing contributors have weaved mental well-being and wellness into a complex tapestry with spiritual, physical and social well-being, as well as the historical injustices and current realities faced by many Aboriginal people including family violence and abuse, child neglect, trauma, discrimination, poverty, and homelessness. The scars of colonization and residential schools are still visible—and healing continues.
I want to thank our contributors for their courage and grace in discussing difficult topics. I hope this issue is the beginning of a dialogue among and between Aboriginal people as well as other British Columbians. Reading the articles in this issue humbles me, makes me think about how my own culture shapes my identity and my views of health, makes me think about cultural responsibility, and makes me feel grateful to have been invited—even a little bit—into the hearts and minds of a resilient people.
About the authorSarah is Visions Editor and Director of PUblic Education and Communications at the Canadian Mental Health Association's BC Deivision. She also has personal experience with mental illness