Aboriginal approaches to mental health

Notes from a talk delivered by Carol Hopkins (Delaware First Nation of Moraviantown, Ontario) at the University of Ottawa, March 22nd 2012. Hosted by the Centre for Students with Disabilities – SFUO.

the universe is made of stories not atoms
– being able to share stories helps: heals, teaches

research that decolonizes, heals, and offers hope
– of benefit to people, not for the purpose of being published

sound of the start of the universe
– the ‘shhh, shhh, shhh’ of the gourd seeds (rattle) spirit seeds (name for beads, strung together)
– next is the beating of the heart (drum)

two worldviews: individualistic and connective/community-based

fourfold way of understanding mental health ‘governance’
– who governs mental well being

‘benzos to berries’:
– story of young kid sitting down with elders
– hook with curiosity
– figure out problem
– ceremony and prescription: when troubled, sit down with bowl of peanuts and blueberries, take time to unshell nuts, be nourished, and calm down

story of fasting
– people going hungry without food
– power of doing without, praying, intent that others have some first
– not doing only for self, doing for everyone

young woman healing addiction
– going down to lake to offer tobacco and pray
– mother, aunts curious as to what she’s doing, they eventually join her
– power of singing as activity that heals, gives faith

using ceremony to balance neurotransmitters
– singing engages whole brain
– prayer can help facilitate change, ex: stop abusing substances, deal with overwhelm

elasticity of resiliency
– come from spirituality, sense of having place and purpose, who we are
– that’s at the core, and comes from layers, what you know of reality

trauma, overwhelm, oppression
– systems of support, taking care of self first, ancestors and descendants

respecting differences
– welcoming all and understanding proper place, proper medicine, valuing gifts

dealing with fear
– young kids doing fasting ceremony face fear of dark
– what would it be like if we all learned when kids to deal well with fear of unknown, public speaking, of failure, etc

culture as key component of well being
– not just behavioural

“backbone not wishbone”
– it is what you stand for
– your strengths, your gifts

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