Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to provide an overview of the programs and services supported by Health Canada in the area of mental health and wellness for first nations and the Inuit.
Health Canada recognizes that addressing mental health and addictions issues are important health priorities for First Nations and Inuit. Consequently, the department is investing more than $300 million this year on a suite of mental wellness programs and services.
Programming includes mental health promotion, addictions and suicide prevention, other crisis response services, treatment and after-care services, and supports to eligible former students of Indian residential schools and their families.
Health Canada is working with partners so that efforts to support individuals, families and communities around mental health care are coordinated and include family support, employment and training, education and social services.
Building on best practices, we know that efforts to support individuals, families and communities should be culturally safe and community-driven. We can find lasting solutions only if we work together with our partners, including First Nations and Inuit organizations and, most importantly, the communities themselves.
Mental health promotion and suicide prevention research emphasizes the need for comprehensive and multi-layered interventions across a continuum of wellness. Interventions at each of the individual, family, and community, and federal, provincial, and territorial levels have been found to be most effective.
We have worked with the Assembly of First Nations and mental wellness leaders to develop the first nations mental wellness continuum framework. Through this process, communities were engaged and brought their ideas to the table.
From these discussions, culture emerged as a foundational component. Community innovation, partnerships across government, collaboration and coordination across sectors, and linkages between programs and services were also identified as being crucial for moving forward.
This framework has been ratified by the Assembly of First Nations' chiefs of assembly and was released by the AFN in January 2015. We are now working with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to develop a mental wellness continuum for the Inuit.
Health Canada is a partner in implementing the first nations mental wellness continuum framework, which calls for integrated models of service delivery that focus on community strengths and indigenous knowledge.
Moving forward, we will look at ways to strengthen the federal mental wellness programming with our partners to meet community-specific needs, such as moving away from siloed program approaches toward more coordinated and effective approaches, and through closer integration between federal, provincial, and territorial programs.
We are also supporting mental wellness teams, which provide specialized treatment to a group of First Nations communities facing mental health issues. These teams seek to increase access to a range of mental wellness services including outreach, assessment, treatment, counselling, case management, referral and aftercare.
Through the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy we support screening for depression in schools; education and training for front-line workers to reduce stigma and increase community awareness; referral and intervention training; crisis services; follow-up and support for at-risk youth; and cultural and traditional activities to promote protective factors and to reduce risk factors.
Since 2008, we have supported a range of services to former students of Indian residential school and their families so they may safely address emotional health and wellness issues related to the disclosure of childhood abuse. For example, in 2013-14 alone, Health Canada supported approximately 630,000 emotional and cultural support services to former students and their families, and 47,000 professional mental health counselling sessions.
On February 20, 2015, Minister Ambrose announced an investment to prevent, detect, and combat family violence and child abuse. Health Canada's investment will support enhanced access to mental health counselling for first nations victims of violence who are in contact with shelters, and will support the improvement of services to first nations and Inuit victims of violence so that services are better coordinated, more trauma informed, and culturally appropriate.
Thank you for your attention. I am pleased to take your questions afterward.