COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

Niikaniganaw (All My Relations) Ii – the COVID-19 Rapid Response: Indigenous Approaches to Synthesizing Knowledge for Culturally-safe and Stigma Free Mental Health Care for Under-served Indigenous Communities in Ottawa-Gatineau

Key Messages

  • We are pursuing integrated indigenous knowledge translation (iKT).
  • Participants ‘learn by doing’.
  • Participants learn by observing and watching the way that the Niikaniganaw team creates and emulates a stigma free and culturally safe environment for Indigenous people facing challenges on their mental health, substance uses, harm reduction practices, homelessness, life with HIV/AIDS or other situations exacerbated by COVID-19.
  • Indigenous people with lived experience are integral to this process in all team activities. This provides an unparalleled opportunity to break down barriers and misconceptions between service providers, knowledge carriers, researchers, and students.

Lay Summary

Building on our strong network and the experience from Niikaniganaw I and II, we adapt the Niikaniganaw model to the COVID-19 context, and offer ‘virtual’ sharing circles and ceremonies to answer these questions (one question per sharing circle virtual ceremony/from June to October 2020). To this end, we have six Indigenous Knowledge Carriers and Traditional Helpers on our team who share their knowledge and ensure that we are grounded in culture, ceremony, and Indigenous ways of knowing. We also have seven Indigenous team members with lived or living experience of HIV, substance use, mental health concerns, street involvement, incarceration, or who are 2SLGBTQ, who share their experiences of accessing health and social services, identifying mental health and substance use issues that might be exacerbated by COVID-19 (e.g. prolonged periods of social isolation, decreased access to critical services such as counselling, chronic health conditions, anxiety and uncertainty about the future, and also stigmatization and culturally unsafe experiences with public health surveillance activities). Specifically, we offer virtual sharing circles / ceremonies for Indigenous community members and Niikaniganaw partners. These sharing circles are co-facilitated by researchers and Indigenous Knowledge Carriers. Consistent with the Niikaniganaw approach, we also evaluate the challenges and opportunities of providing virtual sharing circles and ceremonies as a way to address the needs of underserved Indigenous people in Ottawa-Gatineau, including IPHAs, people who use substances or who struggle with mental health. Those Indigenous approaches of knowledge synthesis encompasses a variety of sources, a timely mobilization of knowledge and an exchange of practical information within a number of multisectoral stakeholders in real-life during the pandemic.

Keywords

  • Indigenous health
  • Mental health
  • Homelessness
  • Virtual culturally-safe care
  • Cultural-safe and stigma-free mental health
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Indigenous research methodologies

Author(s)

Nominated Principal Applicant: Laperrière, Hélène (School of Nursing, University of Ottawa)

Our team is formally led by Dr. Hélène Laperrière (PA, UOttawa), a bilingual scholar who brings an expertise in HIV/AIDS community-based research, with a specific interest in the role of civil society and participatory evaluation. Traditional Knowledge Carrier Christina Bendevis (PKU), excels at creating a safe, non-judgemental and welcoming space for all who wish to participate in ceremony. She also brings her vision of stigma-free mental health services for Indigenous people. This leadership team is supported by, five Indigenous Knowledge Carriers and Traditional Helpers (Sharp Dopler, Ross Saunders, Francine Desjardins, Neal Shannacappo, Michele Penney), who share a commitment to harm reduction, to gender inclusivity, and to providing ceremony for those who need it most, i.e., those with the least access to ceremony such as 2SLGBTQ, those who use substances, and those who have been disconnected from their culture for a variety of reasons. Mike Laframboise brings his Indigenous living experience of HIV and intersecting stigmas including culturally unsafe health and social services. Seven community partners (AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Drug Users Action League, Ottawa Inner City Health, Le Bras, ADOO, and Public Health Agency of Canada COVID-19 Quarantine Department) Ottawa Public Health representing frontline service organizations who serve the Indigenous community, will ensure that we are grounded in local community concern and are well-positioned to ‘take up’ the knowledge we share with each other to create immediate and lasting social change. Researchers (Dr. Leah Layman-Pleet, Dre. Marie-Hélène Chomienne) from two academic departments (Psychiatry, Medicine), nursing professionals (Karina Pelletier) and trainees (Rana Annous, Ines Zombre) ensure that our research can continue to build capacity for culturally-safe care in Ottawa-Gatineau.

For more information, please contact: Laperrière, H. School of Nursing, University of Ottawa Helene.laperriere@uottawa.ca

Related Syntheses

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Population

Indigenous Peoples and Communities

Language

To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

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