By Haley Grinder

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Métis Nation of British Columbia’s (MNBC) Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has taken it upon themselves to offer several free, online sessions of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. The courses will be held virtually via Zoom and will be hosted on a variety of dates from Nov. 8 until Jan. 24, 2022.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the support given to those who may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being, or those enduring a mental health crisis. The course not only provides assistance on managing one’s own mental health, but also teaches how individuals can recognize such struggles within those around us. This can include knowledge on spotting key signs of a person’s mental health decline.

It is an especially important time for mental health to take the front burner of one’s responsibilities, considering the perpetual isolation and social-distancing measures caused by the ongoing pandemic. However, it is imperative among both Native and Métis populations, as the trauma from residential schools is brought to the limelight with the 215 children found buried on the site of Kamloops Residential School earlier this year.

“Mental health concerns have long disproportionately impacted the Métis community. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for mental health supports within Métis communities across British Columbia have only increased,” says Dr. Kate Elliot, the MNBC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “In hearing from the wisdom and need of our communities, Métis Nation B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has worked to coordinate virtual Mental Health First Aid courses for Métis participants across the province.”

The Ktunaxa Nation Government recently declared a Mental Health State of Emergency on Oct. 25, making the conversation around positive mental health a priority among those in the Columbia Valley.

“While it is alarming to see the data indicative of disproportionate mental health concerns within the Métis populations, we know also that it is not uncommon to encounter the resilience of communities rooted in the strengths of Métis culture and worldviews,” Dr. Elliot says, adding that Métis culture is believes in community-based approaches towards positive mental health. “The work to provide a rollout of Mental Health First Aid training across the province is guided by the principle of Kaa-wiichihitoyaahk (ka-wee-chi-hi-toy-yahk), which means ‘we take care of each other.’ By utilizing the guiding belief of Kaa-wiichihitoyaahk, MNBC seeks to build mentally healthy Métis communities that work to take care of each other.”