Eskasoni Continues to Lead the Way in Aboriginal Mental Health

June 27, 2014

Eskasoni First Nation Mental Health Services, as part of the ACCESS-Canada Network (Adolescent/young adult Connections to Community-driven Early Strengths-based and stigma-free Services), has received word that they will be one of only 13 sites in Canada to support Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health (TRAM).

The TRAM initiative was created through a partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation (GBF), which together have contributed $25M over the next five years. TRAM's aim is to ultimately improve youth mental health outcomes in Canada. This pan-Canadian initiative is the first-ever of its kind for youth (12-25) mental health.

Mental illness affects many Canadians, with one-in-five experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime. However, young Canadians are the most profoundly affected, with 75% of mental health problems and illnesses beginning prior to age 25, and more than 50% beginning between 11 and 25 years.

Although young people are more likely to experience mental health disorders than any other age group, they have the least access to mental health care.

Existing services are designed for younger children and older adults, meaning that the system is weakest where it should be strongest. As a result, mental illness takes an enormous toll on youth and their families, with high levels of preventable mortality and life-long illness.

Aboriginal communities are particularly hard-hit. In addition to having more than half of the population under the age of 19, there is also a long history of cultural trauma, unresolved grief, economic isolation and mental health stigma. This has resulted in much higher rates of mental health problems than mainstream Canada. We know that almost every resident of a First Nation community has a first-hand relationship with someone who has attempted or committed suicide.

Through this landmark project, Eskasoni Mental Health Services staff will be able to continue a transformational journey to provide youth with community-friendly streamlined, accessible, culturally grounded mental health services within their Community Mental Health service delivery model.

This demonstration project, which includes scientific evaluation, will allow us to prove what works and share that knowledge with others.

Sharon Paul-Rudderham, Director of Eskasoni Community Health Center, is very excited about the opportunity ahead. "We are looking forward to working with our Provincial and Federal Government partners, Researchers, Youth, Families and other agencies and organizations that provide mental health services to youth. This is a unique and tremendous opportunity for all of us to work together to improve the delivery of mental health services to youth in Canada."