Christensen: An effective northern mental health strategy must include housing
Guest contributor Julia Christensen on why housing should be a priority if Canada's national mental health strategy is to be effective.
The recent release of a national mental health strategy by the federal government was largely praised in the Canadian North, where mental health is highlighted by health care practitioners, front line workers, and NGOs alike as an urgent, and fundamental, area of concern that is inextricably tied to social cohesion and community wellbeing.
In the Northwest Territories (NWT), we now wait with baited breath for the announcement of a territorial mental health strategy, something that GNWT Health Minister Tom Beaulieu has promised will be tabled in the next legislative sitting. Beaulieu has hinted that the new plan will address key gaps in services to small communities as well as the lack of a treatment facility geared specifically towards promoting mental health. These same gaps have been illustrated in several recent studies on northern health services, as well as in my own research on homelessness and northern housing insecurity. While Beaulieu has mentioned some important gaps that the strategy will aim to address, housing must also feature front and centre in his Department's vision for promoting mental health in the territory.
In 2007, I began a four-year doctoral research project on homelessness in two northern urban centres: Inuvik and Yellowknife. The project, and resulting thesis, is titled Homeless in a homeland: housing insecurity and homelessness in Inuvik and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
While the initial focus was to understand the factors contributing to visible homelessness in those two communities, this study also shed significant light upon what is taking place in other northern communities, the reason being that many (the majority, in fact) of homeless men and women in both locales call other, smaller northern communities 'home'. Not only did this study illustrate the rural-urban geographies of northern homelessness, it also exposed a common relationship between collective and personal traumas and homelessness in individual experiences. Overwhelmingly, homeless men and women linked their experiences with homelessness to residential school and its intergenerational impacts, apprehension by the child welfare system, or domestic violence....."
RT @northern_clips: Effective northern mental health strategy must include housing http://t.co/NMVSuytv