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

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Most Read