Left untreated, mental illness can be incredibly damaging to individuals and communities, and supports need to be both accessible and culturally appropriate.
That is why the Government of Canada is committed to working with First Nations and Inuit leaders, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to provide effective, sustainable and culturally appropriate mental wellness programs and services for First Nations and Inuit.
Today, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, announced the launch of the national toll-free First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line. The Help Line, which started operation on Oct. 1, provides immediate, culturally competent, telephone crisis intervention counselling support for First Nations and Inuit, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Counsellors can also work with callers to identify follow-up services they can access. Counselling is available in English and French and, upon request, in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktut.
Health Canada will continue to work with Indigenous leaders to develop a long-term plan to address mental health issues being faced by Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous people are at a greater risk of experiencing mental health issues. Suicide is a significant concern in some communities, particularly in the North and in remote areas.
The Help Line is being funded as part of the $69 million announced by the Government of Canada in June 2016 to support crisis response teams, mental wellness teams and increased access to mental health care services.
The Government of Canada provides more than $300 million annually for mental wellness programming for First Nations on reserve and Inuit in Inuit communities.
“I have been deeply troubled by the many stories I have heard about First Nations and Inuit youth struggling with mental wellness,” said Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. “This Government acknowledges the scope and seriousness of the mental health issues facing many First Nations and Inuit communities across the country, and we are committed to working collaboratively with our partners to address these complex issues. The launch of the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is an important step forward and makes culturally safe telephone counselling support available around the clock and across the country, for those who need it, when they need it.”
Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, said First Nations and Inuit youth have communicated to her the challenges they face, from bullying to low self esteem, from sexual violence to a lost sense of purpose and secure cultural identity.
“It is our job to make sure youth have the support they need, and that they do not lose hope,” Bennett said. “Proper mental health starts with strong homes and families. That is why we made historic investments, $8.4 billion, through Budget 2016 to support Indigenous people across the country, which includes addressing gaps in housing and child welfare. With the launch of the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line, youth will now have a culturally safe place — in their language, including in Inuktut, to tell their stories, which we hope will bring much needed healing.”
The new toll-free number for the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is 1-855-242-3310.