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Promoting Holistic Wellness in Mental Health and Addictions

A Research Theme of the BC Aboriginal Capacity and Research Development Environment

Reprinted from "Concurrent Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (1), p. 59

Background

The new BC ACADRE is situated within the Institute for Aboriginal Health, a partnership between the First Nations House of Learning and the College of Health Disciplines at the University of British Columbia. This initiative is provincial in scope and is focusing on increasing capacity related to Aboriginal health research through the development of partnerships and collaboration between post-secondary institutions, Aboriginal organizations and First Nations communities in BC.

The BC ACADRE joins a unique network of ACADRE initiatives across Canada, which aims to improve the health of Aboriginal peoples through the facilitation and development of Aboriginal capacity in health research.

The ACADRE objectives include:

  1. Supporting community determined research

  2. Promoting health research training for Aboriginal people

  3. Supporting the development of community health assessments and ethical research practices inclusive of Aboriginal traditional knowledge.

  4. Promoting holistic wellness in mental health and addictions

Each of these objectives represents a research theme. The focus of the present article is on the fourth theme, mental health and addictions, and on a tool that is being piloted that will help to promote research capacity in the area of promoting holistic wellness in mental health and addictions.

Promoting Holistic Wellness

Researchers in the field of intercultural mental health recognize that some therapeutic approaches might be ineffective or even harmful when applied without regard to the cultural background of the client. Aboriginal people tend not to utilize the mental health services provided by the majority culture. Of those Aboriginal people who do use such services, approximately half drop out after the first therapy session.

In an effort to address this problem, researchers in Aboriginal mental health have stressed the need for mental health theorists and practitioners to become familiar with mental health healing processes that might be more appropriate for Aboriginal people. As there is little research on culturally sensitive mental health and addictions services, it is vital that Aboriginal people be provided with a mechanism to identify the practices that best facilitates healing for them.

The mental health and addictions research program will have several important dimensions. Feasibility studies and pilot projects will be supported to explore what facilitates healing in various areas of mental health and addictions, including but not limited to the problems of suicide, trauma, and physical and sexual abuse. It is expected that the results of these pilot studies will contribute to the success of ACADRE investigators accessing Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grants in the future.

One particular need that has been identified is the need to create opportunities for those who work in Aboriginal community health to articulate and legitimate “their unique cultural perspectives on wellness,” and to further examine the concepts of “self-help resources” (recommended by First Nations) and “self-care resources” (recommended) by the biosocial medical model).

The Community Healing Resources Inventory, led by Dr. Rod McCormick, and funded by the National Aboriginal Health Organization is one tool that is currently being studied as a means of identifying Aboriginal health strengths, including within the area of mental health and addictions. As part of this ACADRE program, Aboriginal health students and community workers will be trained to use the inventory to ascertain what healing resources exist within their respective communities.

The BC ACADRE program has recently completed a series of pilots of the healing inventory in eight communities, and is currently looking at the results, and at their implications for addressing mental health and addictions in a holistic fashion. The BC ACADRE is in the early stages of consulting with Aboriginal communities in the province and hopes that in the years to come it will be able to facilitate respectful and relevant research to improve the overall health of Aboriginal people.

 
Note

This article was adopted from the website of BC Aboriginal Capacity and Health Research Development Environment (ACADRE), with assistance from Kim Brooks, Manager of BC ACADRE, and from Dr. Rod McCormick, Associate Professor of Counselling Psychology, UBC, Mental Health and Addictions Theme Leader. For more information about the program and its other research themes, see www.health-sciences.ubc-caliah/acadre or contact Kim Brooks by email at kcbrooks@interchange.ubc.ca or (604)-827-5464

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