Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Indigenous Psychology, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, mental illness, Research Methods.

Description: In my previous post (, I wrote about the distinct cultural perspectives that give diverse meanings to the terms Elder (aboriginal culture) and elderly (mainstream cultures). In this post I am shifting ages a bit and am asking you to consider how aboriginal and mainstream teenagers and youth in Northern British Columbia access and respond to online resources relating to mental illness, mental health and mental wellbeing. Before you read the article linked below, think a little about whether you think there will be any differences in the whether, and in the ways in which, aboriginal versus mainstream youth access web-based resources about mental illness and mental health. If you think there might be differences, what do you think they might look like? Are the resources likely to be different depending upon who they are aimed at (developed for)? What do you think aboriginal youth might have to say or want to say or do regarding these sorts of online resources, especially to make them more useful and accessible to other aboriginal youth? If you are not sure how to address these questions no problem, just keep them in mind as you read the linked article.

Source: Ward, V., & de Leeuw, S. (2018). Web of culture: Critically assessing online mental health resources for Indigenous youth in northern British Columbia using digital storytelling. UBC Medical Journal, 9(2). Download link below.

Date: March 1, 2018

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There is a lot in the linked article that may be unfamiliar to you. Concepts and phrases like decolonization, social determinants of health, strength-based approaches, privileged voices, indigenous voices, action-based principles, and digital storytelling to point out a few.  I am not going to discuss these terms in detail here (we will return to many of them in future posts). For now I would like you to think about what it might mean to “have a voice” in relation to thinking and talking about mental health and wellness. The finding noted in the study that indigenous youth are much more likely to seek out resources, connections, and supports related to mental health and wellness on-line than are mainstream youth is particularly worth reflecting upon and it is essential to note that this difference should not be tritely dismissed as simply reflective of greater need. The key to understanding the difference lies in understanding the “have a voice” finding. Basically, people in mainstream culture typically see “having a voice” as involving speaking loudly enough to be heard. When the culture or social forces that surround you are yours (are of your culture) then “having a voice” can be translated as “speak and you shall be heard (and/or understood).” Being part of minority culture, or particularly a part of indigenous culture can mean that you can be viewed as not having standing to speak or not being treated respectfully or even heard at all if you do speak. As we will see in more detail as we get into this topic in future posts, the history of treatment of indigenous peoples by mainstream colonizing (there is THAT word again) culture and population reflects a consistent lack of standing based on an array of (racist) beliefs and aggressive actions against indigenous people and cultures within Canada and North America. Think about that when you reflect upon what might bring indigenous youth to say they do not “have a voice” and think about how that could impact their identity development, community engagement and developmental and psychological wellbeing. Finally, with that in mind think about how we might understand why or how it might be that indigenous youth find on-line opportunities connection and online communities with which to engage particularly helpful and empowering.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What issues are there that are particularly important when we consider the mental health and wellness of indigenous youth in North BC communities?
  2. What might it mean when indigenous youth say they do not feel they “have a voice” in matters of their own mental health and wellness?
  3. What role(s) does culture play in youth’s definitions of mental illness, health and wellness and how might online resources support the role of culture in these areas?

References (Read Further):

Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd.

Westerman, T. (2004). Guest Editorial: Engagement of Indigenous clients in mental health services: What role do cultural differences play?. Australian e-journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 3(3), 88-93.

Kirmayer, L., Simpson, C., & Cargo, M. (2003). Healing traditions: Culture, community and mental health promotion with Canadian Aboriginal peoples. Australasian Psychiatry, 11(sup1), S15-S23.,community%20and%20mental%20health%20promotion%20with%20Canadian%20Aboriginal%20Peoples.pdf

Rickwood, D. J., Deane, F. P., & Wilson, C. J. (2007). When and how do young people seek professional help for mental health problems?. Medical Journal of Australia, 187(7), S35.

Kirmayer, L. J., Brass, G. M., & Tait, C. L. (2000). The mental health of Aboriginal peoples: Transformations of identity and community. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(7), 607-616.