The future for Inuit youth, reconnecting with life through individual and community development
The main objective of the project is to support young people from the aboriginal Inuit nation in their personal and professional development, in order to guarantee them a bright future. This research project, led by Dre Gómez-Carrillo Castro of the MUHC, has four components: art, mentoring, the Tree of Life intervention and evolution support.
Support from the Pediatric Research Foundation will help kick-start the project by providing funds for coordination between the four components and for liaison between the stakeholders and the graduate students responsible for monitoring evaluation activities, including participant feedback, evaluation quality assurance and results analysis.
Aboriginal peoples are the fastest-growing population in Canada. The suicide rate for Aboriginal children is 5 to 7 times higher than for non-Aboriginal children. These children are three times more likely to be in the care of youth protection services than any other community in Quebec.
The Future for Inuit Youth project is a four-pronged intervention aimed at promoting the projection of young people into the future by picking them up where they left off and helping them to re-engage in life through individual and community development.
This project stems from the experiences of a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Nunavik and an independent report on the Centre for Mental Health’s Future for Inuit Youth project.
1– The scope of the project is also part of the commitment.
2– Canada’s youth policy and the “Inspiring Healthy Futures” message, and Minnie’s Hope Social Pediatrics Centre.
In addition to social services, community nurses, youth councils and family homes in all communities will be involved. A youth advisory group and consultation with elders will guide the process throughout. At the same time, this will provide the basis for long-term youth engagement.
Currently, most of the project’s components are based in Nunavik, but partnership with Cree communities is possible through collaboration with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Northern Program (Dr. Mauger, psychiatry, and Dr. Morel, pediatrics).
STRAND 1: THE HEALINGS OF ARTS
Connecting Inuit youth art with Indigenous artists to foster future self-projection
The arts program emerged as a response to needs and opportunities identified by one of the child psychiatrists in her regular practice at the Inuulitsivik Health Centre in exchange with the Avataq Cultural Institute.
We encounter youth in fragile states and precarious psychosocial situations. When supported and stabilized, they dare to start engaging and investing in themselves, to explore interests and to start caring about something again.
The arts – stone carving, beading, sketching, film, photography, throat singing to name a few help youth process and deal with complex trauma and allow them to develop a sense of self, regain their agency and, with support, remain engaged and have something to care about.
This is a key process in moving away from traumatic disengagement from life andcentral to regaining the wish to live and develop perspectives for the future.
Disengagement as a reaction to neglect, chronic disappointment and complex trauma contributes to boredom, and loss of attachment and meaning to life, which prompt risk taking behaviours and increases risk for suicidal tendencies.
Supporting youth in projecting a future for themselves and being motivated by the present, to dream and voice their hopes is key to suicide prevention. This kind of child and youth development requires proactive support and access to resources. Encouraging and fostering a future orientation with concrete action also increases resilience and perseverance. It helps youth care.
An art-mentoring program helps youth explore their talents, addresses major issues underlying mental health concerns, fosters resilience and encourages community building around the arts for underprivileged youth, while also supporting rising Inuit talent.
STRAND 2 : MENTORING MINDS
Indigenous Youth North-South Networking Pilot Project.
The mentorship program emerged as a response to needs identified by one of the child psychiatrists in her regular practice at the Inuulitsivik Health Centre. Youth in fragile states and precarious psychosocial situations may dare to dream and look to the future with hope, once supported and stabilized. This development needs to be supported proactively.
Encouraging and fostering a future orientation with concrete action increases resilience and perseverance. This opens the way to expanding their imaginations, so they move from ‘daring to hope’ to a sustained projection of their future selves pursuing a path of their choice. It helps youth care about their future and envision themselves as contributing to their community.
In so doing, a mentoring program addresses major mental health concerns, fosters resilience, and also helps create a north-south support network amongst Inuit youth. Moreover, by mentoring youth we increase the likelihood of them making it through to post-secondary education.
STRAND 3 : ADAPTATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF TREE OF LIFE INTERVENTION IN INUIT COMMUNITIES
The Tree of Life (ToL) is a psychosocial support tool based on narrative therapy, originally developed in East and Southern Africa to help vulnerable children.Drawing on the metaphor of a tree, taken from Zimbabwean folklore and collective narrative practice, the ToL supports groups and communities to overcome difficult life experiences.
The focus of this strand is to train community stakeholders as ToL facilitators to help implement the culturally adapted version of the ToL intervention in multiple contexts. This includes delivering the program at Minnie’s Hope, Group Home and Family House in collaboration with corresponding stakeholders and community workers. There is existing funding of $15,550 to support the adaptation of the “Tree of Life” Program to Inuit youth context, starting with Kuujjuaraapik/Whapmagoostui (Nord-du Québec).
STRAND 4 : DARE TO DREAM
Helping youth access the resources to pursue the interests, activities or training of their choice to strengthen peer support groups and youth stabilization in times of crises.
This 4th strand aims to provide the funds to support youth access to the leisure and training resources of their choice.
The team will work with the youth council, social services, the community nurse, community workers and Family House to identify individual and small group needs and wishes. Given the social structural reality of the northern communities, especially in context of COVID, youth have often not been able to access leisure and skill training that responds to their interests.
These include taking underserved youth camping/hunting and having the flexibility of offering stimulating workshops brought to their community, such as film making/editing, stone carving, writing/poetry, bike repair, illustration/design, theatre/dance, throat singing, music, etc.
A modest budget would allow for personalize activities to individual youth or groups of youth that are at risk due to ongoing traumatic experiences in the community.
This will facilitate peer-support group building, youth stabilization and future orientation. A collaboration with Vélo Quebec and Wapikoni Mobile is in progress.
ENGAGEMENT OF THE COMMUNITY
The community will be actively engaged through a youth council, consultation with elders,
Inuit artist, Inuit cultural center and by hiring local youth workers, that can be trained in service delivery.
Benefits are direct for program participants but also as a creative hub creation in the
community, that can inspire and procure a snowball effect, as well as contributing to
In addition, what makes this project stand-out is that it is an in-the-field intervention
program led by a doctor with feet-on-the-ground. Careful consideration was given to local
communities that are in need of concrete solutions.
Community will benefit by having youth engaged in life, poised for undertaking postsecondary education, leading to a sustainable social and economical empowerment, and
reduced suicide rates.
YOUNG PEOPLE IMPACTED
Focus will be on students in secondary 3-4-5 and recent high school graduates who have
expressed interest in post-secondary education. It is aimed at promoting the projection of
young people into the future by picking them up where they left off and helping them to reengage in life through individual and community development.
Number of people will have to be assessed depending on the project evolution. Objective is
to focus initially on one community and expand to nearby communities as it goes. We can
expect the initial project group to be about 8-12 kids per phase, and then expand to other
communities at a later stage.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS – OUTCOMES MEASURES
·individual suicide risk scores which include environmental stressors, access to lethal means,
previous attempt history
·self-reported suicidality, numerical scale 0-10
·psychological drivers and interpersonal suicide risk factors, measure by a scale 0-10.
This includes level of stress, emotional pain, urges to self harm, or engage in destructive
behaviour, feelings of hopelessness, self-hate, burdensomeness and lack of belonging. A
few measures based on cultural adaptation including boredom and irritability.
3 to 5 years phase research-intervention project, once the project gets the funds to kick
start. Would start with groups of 8-12 kids per phase in selected communities and then grow
to reach full scope. The reality of project development in this indigenous community is
different from that of large urban centers as everything takes more time to realize,
especially hiring qualified personnel.
- Dre Ana Gómez-Carrillo Castro, researcher in social and transcultural psychiatry at McGill University
- Douglas Research Centre, McGill University
- Neurodevelopment and mental health