Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday August 25, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ottawa giving $82.5M for Indigenous mental health support during COVID-19

New federal funding will support access to additional services

The federal government is pledging $82.5 million to improve access and address growing demand for mental health services in Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access to many mental health services within Indigenous communities have been disrupted due to the pandemic, while some services have shifted to virtual and telehealth treatment options, creating obstacles for those living in remote communities that have limited connectivity.

Meanwhile, demand for services has surged.

In the first four months of this year, the Hope for Wellness Help Line, which provides telephone and online support for First Nations, Inuit and Metis in a number of Indigenous languages, received over 10,000 calls and chats from people seeking crisis intervention services.

This represents a 178 per cent increase in demand compared to the same time period in 2019.

Also, the First Nations Health Authority in B.C. reported last month that First Nations overdose deaths almost doubled between January and May of this year.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller acknowledged Tuesday that a disparity exists between mental wellness support available to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada and called this situation unacceptable.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation,” Miller said.

“Sustained, targeted investment is needed to ensure that culturally safe mental wellness services remain available and community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health supports are critical to the well-being for anyone struggling to cope with the added stress and anxiety that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.”

ALSO READ: Isolation, drug toxicity lead to spike in First Nations overdose deaths amid pandemic

The new federal funding will support access to additional services, such as transitioning some services to virtual platforms to meet increased demand.

It will also support Indigenous partners in developing new ways to address substance use and to improve access to treatment and it will work to expand access to culturally appropriate services such as on-the-land activities, community-based health supports and mental wellness teams.

The new funds are a response to calls from many First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders who have been pushing for more mental health supports in their communities, Miller said.

Intergenerational trauma suffered by many Indigenous people due to Canada’s history of colonialism and mistreatment of Canada’s First Peoples is already a deeply difficult issue to address when it comes to mental health treatment, said Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada

The additional anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse, he said.

The negative effects of COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions have also led to increased rates of family violence against women and have also caused further isolation of Indigenous youth and those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities.

“We all need to be standing behind First Nations, Metis and Inuit in responding to the mental wellness, mental health crisis in Canada. It is extremely important that we stand behind them so that no communities are left behind,” Wong said.

Funding will be allocated to First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities based on discussions among national and regional partnership tables or regional governing leaders.

There will also be some funds remaining to enable surge capacity and adaptation among national organizations and services, such as the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, First Peoples Wellness Circle and Hope for Wellness Line.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenousmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

The Spences Bridge Improvement District is looking for someone to fill the position of fire chief, and is also looking for people willing to stand as a candidate for the SBID board; elections will take place at the AGM on Nov. 28. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Candidates for trustee, fire chief wanted in Spences Bridge

Elections will be held during Spences Bridge Improvement District AGM on Nov. 28

Looking west from the Mesa to the Ashcroft Reserve at the start of the Elephant Hill wildfire, July 7, 2017. Students at Desert Sands Community School are looking to interview locals about their direct experience with the 2017 wildfires. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Students looking for people to share their 2017 wildfire stories

Desert Sands Community School students want to speak with residents about wildfire experiences

BC 2020 election graphic
Elections BC estimates 52% of BC voters cast a ballot this year

Results are down from 2017, and final counts will have to wait until mail-in ballots are tallied

An operator works to clear the culvert at Quartz Road in Cache Creek during flooding in April 2020. The Village of Cache Creek is looking for local contractors who want to go on a list for any work (emergency and non-emergency) that is needed. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Village of Cache Creek calling all contractors willing to work

Plus a Halloween drive-in movie event, an AGM, Christmas market news, and more

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read