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A podcast with Dr. Melissa Walls

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A month ago, myself and Dominique Geoffroy were happy to conduct a podcast interview with Dr. Melissa Walls on her article “Rebuilding our community”: Hearing silenced voices on Aboriginal youth suicide. The article was published in the February 2014 issue of Transcultural Psychiatry. In the podcast, Melissa discusses a qualitative study in which she traveled to three Aboriginal communities to discuss the issue of youth suicide with elders and service providers. Melissa and her team then classified the risks factors in Aboriginal youth suicidality identified by the communities into micro (interpersonal) stressors, meso (family/community level) stressors and macro (governmental, environmental, economic) stressors. They found that the community members were not emphasizing individual level pathologies (such as mental illness or depression), but that the strongest stressors identified by the focus groups were macro-level, particularly historical trauma.

To listen to the podcast, please click here.

It was great to hear Melissa talk about her work and how the results of that study led to her involvement in our current project!


Update on Splatsin’s second round

Waytk! From Splatsin

Here in BC we are nearing the conclusion of our second round of the project. We began in early October and have been meeting each week with fairly consistent regularity, with a break over the Christmas holidays. We have had the great fortune of having an eager group who are enjoying our weekly meeting times. We have also been lucky to have a great number of participants this time around. We are topping out at upwards of 27 people in our room on some nights, including facilitators…which makes for a busy and happening evening! Similar to last year, we have a variety of participants ranging from biological mothers and daughters, foster parents with their foster children who are also accompanied by their biological mother as well. We also have a grandmother who is joining her daughter and three granddaughters each week as well. On two nights we also had a dad join us which was also great to see. As you can see in some of the photos, we are in the process of making drums with our families. We had two community elders join us and show us how to lace the hides on the frames. Our long term goal is to have our youth make their drums and drum sticks, paint the drums, learn a traditional song, and then perform the song at our final celebration feast. Time will tell how close we get to the goal! Our final celebration feast is scheduled for March 11, so we have lots to accomplish before we wind up prior to the Spring Break. Best wishes to all the other programs and hope you are all doing well.

Don, Julianna, Tracey.






Masteuiatsh and the Ilnu culture

On 17 October 2013 a meeting was held with the aim to assess the degree of fidelity of the intervention (we compared the Ilnu version of the intervention to the original program).
The question we asked was: during the 14 sessions, did the adapted program follow the same objectives?
Audrey (Quebec coordinator on the left of the photo) recorded the responses of (from left to right) Jacinthe, Meggie (facilitators) and Maggie (coordinator). Thank you all for your cooperation!
After the meeting, I (the new project coordinator) visited the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh to discover more about the Ilnu culture.
 musee rotated
Respect is an important value in the Ilnu culture. In the language, the verb “to see” is pronounced differently depending on whether the eye rests on living beings (see the woman at the top of the mural in the image) or inanimate things (see the man at the bottom of the mural in the image), in order to give special consideration for all living beings.
murale rotated
Denis is the designer of the mural and a guide at the museum. Thank you to Denis and to all the staff of the museum, including Denise and Louise, for their warm welcome.
Mashteuiatsh is located on Lake St- Jean.
The culture is also very present in the interior of L’auberge Robertson. It was a very nice place for a pleasant stay in Mashteuiatsh.

Mashteuiatsh et la culture Ilnu

Le 17 octobre 2013 a eu lieu une rencontre ayant pour but d’évaluer le degré de fidélité de l’intervention (version Ilnu à celle du programme original).

Question posée: Au cours des 14 sessions, est-ce que le programme adapté, a suivi les mêmes objectifs?


Ainsi, dans une perspective de recherche, Audrey (coordonnatrice du Québec à gauche sur la photo) a enregistré les réponses de Jacinthe, Meggie (animatrices) et Maggie (coordonnatrice, à droite sur la photo).  Merci à vous toutes de votre collaboration!

Après la rencontre, Dominique, la nouvelle coordonnatrice du projet, a visité le musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh afin de se familiariser avec la culture Ilnu.


musee rotated

Le respect est une valeur importante dans la culture Ilnu.  Afin de marquer une considération particulière aux êtres vivants, dans cette langue, le verbe “je vois” se prononce différemment selon que le regard se pose sur des êtres vivants (regard de la femme en haut sur la murale) ou sur les choses inanimées (regard de l’homme en bas sur la murale).

murale rotated

Denis est le concepteur de la murale et guide au musée.  Merci à Denis et à toute l’équipe du musée, dont Denise et Louise, pour leur chaleureux accueil.


Mashteuiatsh est situé au bord du lac St-Jean.


La culture est aussi bien présente à l’intérieure de l’auberge Robertson. Un endroit bien sympathique pour passer un séjour agréable à Mashteuiatsh.



Visit to Mashteuiatsh

Last week I had the pleasure of travelling with Audrey Vezina to visit our partners in Mashteuiatsh. We drove through the beautiful forests of Quebec to Lac St. Jean where we met with Jacynthe Connolly, Maggie Robertson and Meggie Noël. The group will soon be completing the program and preparing for the visit from Gesgapegiag (see above blog posts). Our hosts showed us around Mashteuiatsh, which is a pretty community with views of the vast lake. We had the opportunity to meet carvers and sewers, visit the beach and view local crafts. Thank you to Mashteuiatsh and congratulations to them on their creativity and work.

Josh Moses


Les idées pour levée de fonds

Bonjour à tous,

Comme le temps file…….nous avons presque terminé nos ateliers. Il nous en reste 3 avant notre voyage à Gesgapégiag. Nous avons tous hâte de vivre cet échange culturel.

Comme nous venons juste de recevoir la version en français des entrevues, nous prendrons la prochaine session pour les compléter.

Les parents et les ados. Sont toujours intéressés et impliqués dans le programme; des liens solides se tissent entre eux. C’est bon de voir ça. Ils sont à préparer leur levée de fonds et ils planifient 3 activités pour ce faire :

  1. Marche au flambeau ( dans un champs avec les familles) en mai
  2. Marchothon en juin
  3. Dîner spaguetti en juillet.

Leur objectif est d’amasser $1000. Espérons qu’ils l’atteindront.

Pour le moment, nous nous préparons à recevoir nos invités de la nation Migmaq alors, ce sera un plaisir de les rencontrer en juillet prochain.


Dans la paix et l’amitié,

Jacinthe Connolly et l’équipe de Mashteuiatsh


Fundraising ideas

Hello everyone,

Time goes by quickly………We’ve almost finished our sessions. We have three more to go before the trip to Gesgapegiag. We are all excited to be a part of this cultural exchange. As we just received the French version of the interviews, we will take the next session to fill them out.

Parents and youths are still interested and involved in the program; they are building strong connections between them. It’s good to see that. They are now preparing their fundraising for the trip and they have planned three activities to raise funds:

  1. Torch walk (in a field with families) in May
  2. Walk-a-thon in June
  3. Spaghetti dinner in July

Their goal is to gather $ 1000. Hopefully they will acheive it!

Now, we are preparing to receive our guests from the Migmaq nation so it will be a pleasure to met them in July!

In peace and friendship,

Jacinthe Connolly and team from Mashteuiatsh


a beautiful view from a park in Mashteuiatsh

PlaygroundMashteuiatsh YouthMashteuiatsh

Visits to Quebec First Nations communities


Hi everyone!

I’ve been in Gesgapegiag and Mashteuiatsh several times since my last post.

Since May 2012, I have been travelling once a month to Gesgapegiag and once a month to Mashteuiatsh. These two First Nations are now working nearly for a year on their version of the intervention.

During the last months, we’ve been through revision and translation of questionnaires for youth and adults, the participating communities met a couple of times through Skype or conference call, and the sessions have been in progress in Mashteuiatsh since January. March 27th was their fourth session.

Gesgapegiag will soon end their adaptation of the intervention. All the material will be translated in Mig’ Maq, quite a job! Joanna Martin is undertaking this great work. Christiane Bernard made the poster above and also works on the adaptation.  The sessions in Gesgapegiag are scheduled to begin April 17th.

Teams are also in preparation for next summer’s trip. The host community will be taking care of the lodging, food and activities for the visiting community.

This experience is meaningful and very interesting. I feel privileged to accompany communities through this journey.


Audrey Vézina

Mental health adviser; FNQLHSSC.



My visit to the Splatsin community

In January I had the pleasure of spending several days with Splatsin community. Don and Deanna were wonderful hosts and I enjoyed the landscape and my time with community members. In particular, it was wonderful to see the creativity and energy that has gone into programming. The Splatsin Teaching Centre is a remarkable hub, filled with activities, ranging from small children to elders. I was lucky enough to attend a session of the Culturally-Based, Family-Centred Mental Health Promotion for Aboriginal Youth. There are few things that make this job more worthwhile than seeing and hearing from people on-the-ground how they are benefiting from and enjoying the program. Thank you to Splatsin for including me.

Joshua Moses, Project Coordinator

Cultural adaptation in Aboriginal mental health

On January 11th and 12th, 2013, Dr. Joshua Moses and Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, two representatives from the culturally-based, family-centered mental health promotion for Aboriginal youth project at McGill, paid a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia to discuss cultural adaptation.

The meeting brought together three projects across the country, all funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, who are culturally adapting mental health promotion initiatives to fit an Aboriginal cultural context and ensure cultural relevancy. The primary purpose of the meeting was to begin to develop a toolkit on guidelines in cultural adaptation in Aboriginal communities for funders, practitioners and researchers based on the experiences of the three projects.

In addition to the McGill project, at the table were representatives from Manitoba, from the Towards Flourishing Project, and representatives from British Columbia from the Connecting the Dots project at the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. For more information on Connecting the Dots see www.cmha.bc.ca/connectingthedots or contact Trixie.ling@cmha.bc.ca. For more information on the Towards Flourishing project please email Farzana.Quddus@gov.mb.ca or Kate.Dubberley@gov.mb.ca.

During the first day of the two-day meeting each project presented on key learnings in cultural adaptation, based upon their work in their own projects. Although the primary focus was on cultural adaptation in Aboriginal communities, Manitoba also presented on potential considerations in cultural adaptation in an immigrant context. In the second day of the meeting, the team discussed the format of the toolkit to be developed and major topics that would be covered in that toolkit.

Although the toolkit is still under development, consensus was reached on the importance of several considerations when undertaking cultural adaptation work in an Aboriginal context, including:

  • The importance of relationship building to cultural adaptation
  • Ensuring a respectful and culturally competent process
  • Active involvement of Aboriginal communities in the adaptation process
  • The need for a flexible structure and approach to cultural adaptation order to promote cultural relevance and cultural safety
  • The importance of understanding fiscal year budget constraints and their impact on cultural adaptation work
  • The need to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of culture

These lessons and more will be discussed in the upcoming toolkit, providing policy makers, government, practitioners and researchers, with a needed overview of possible challenges and promising practices in cultural adaptation work in Aboriginal communities. The toolkit will also offer a literature review on cultural adaptation in both an Aboriginal and immigrant context and a scoping of Canadian cultural adaptation initiatives.

Stay tuned for future updates on the status of this cultural adaptation toolkit!


Caitlin O’Reilly

Canadian Mental Health Association




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