Spotlight: Mental health in indigenous communities

Dr. Suzanne Stewart, a Professor of Aboriginal Healing in Counseling Psychology, University of Toronto, addressing the 2012 International Polar Year plenary panel on Communities and Health. Photo: Eilís Quinn, Radio Canada International. Dr. Suzanne Stewart, a Professor of Aboriginal Healing in Counseling Psychology, University of Toronto, and a member of Canada’sYellowknives Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories, addressed the Plenary Panel: Communities and Health session at the 2012 International Polar Year conference in Montreal today. 

Her discussion of the ways that the southern-based mental health care system doesn’t always well serve Canada’s First Nations communities seemed to resinate with a lot of people in the room who nodded their heads in agreement as she spoke.

Her main points concerned the different world views held by indigenous peoples and so-called ‘western medicine.’

Indigenous mental health means a blance between mental, physical, spiritual and emotional being, she said. Western medicine is more foccused on disease and illness, she added.

Correcting this approach in aboriginal communities would mean including things like storytelling, elders, health circles and traditional ceremonies such as drum dancing in mental health practise as well as an understanding of colonialism and healing from the collective emotional trauma in First Nations communities.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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