Inuit Mental Health
Inuit Elders, activists and advocates have long been calling for Inuit-specific mental health training programs to be developed and made available to Inuit across Inuit Nunangat. Decolonized mental health programming to address the mental health crisis within these communities is a need that has largely gone unaddressed for decades.
Our work in Inuit communities began with a series of conversations with Inuit wisdom-keeper, activist, and Officer of the Order of Canada (OC), Aaju Peter. After participating in a Mandala Institute training, Aaju recognized the resonance between the content of our Holistic Mental Health teachings and those of traditional Inuit culture and concepts.
From this initial meeting has begun a series of ongoing collaborations with Inuit leaders in holistic approaches to mental health and healing for Inuit people both in Nunavut and Southern Canada.
Along with Aaju, we count among our advisers and collaborators the Juno Award winning performer, OC, and founder of the Arctic Rose Foundation, Susan Aglukark , the Deputy Premier of the Territory of Nunavut Pamela Gross, and Bryan Winters, Senior Manager of Partnerships and Special Projects at Small Economy Works and candidate for Ordinary Member of the Nunatsiavut Assembly.
The Messy Book Program
We support the Arctic Rose Foundation's Messy Book Program, which provides creative arts training and safe spaces to explore themes of healing.
Our CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Gentile serves as Holistic Mental Health Specialist providing trainings for ARF staff and volunteers remotely and onsite at locations across Nunavut.
In February 2020, the ARF was awarded a grant from the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust to roll-out an additional program to support youth in multiple Northern communities on their path to high school graduation.
"Becoming Inummarik" Inuit Mental Health Pilot Program
In late 2021 we successfully completed piloting a "heal-the-healer" introductory Inuit-specific mental health training program called "Becoming Inummarik", with Inummarik being an Inuktitut word that means "a person who can act with wisdom." Becoming Inummarik focuses on Inuit-specific mental health education, normalizing conversations about mental health, skill building, and self-healing. This pilot program was made possible by Bryan Winters, former Executive Director of the Toronto Inuit Association, and with Seed Grant funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The 80-hour program involved 9 urban Inuit who found the program not only highly effective in improving their mental and emotional well-being, but also appropriately aligned with and honouring of Inuit culture.
Prior to developing the curriculum for this program, we embarked upon a research project to gain a clear understanding of Inuit views on mental health, mental illness, woundedness and healing.
This research culminated in the development of a 53-page white paper entitled “Inuit Mental Health Model: Consolidating Inuit Knowledge on Mental Health and Mapping a Path of Healing for the Future”, which provided both the basis and Inuit-sourced mandate for not only the introductory curriculum that was delivered in 2021 but also for the larger vision of a multi-phased Inuit-specific mental health certification training program.
The Inuit Mental Health Model research document is available for researchers on Academia.edu and for download as a PDF by the general public here.
In 2022 we have been expanding our work with our Inuit collaborators by presenting our work-to-date at the 2022 Inuit Studies Conference: Auviqsaqtut, held from June 19-22 in Winnipeg. Along with his Inuit collaborators, Andrew presented a panel presentation entitled "Decolonizing Mental Health through Inuit-Specific Mental Health Training Programs". (You can see a recording of the presentation here or at the embedded video below.)
In August 2022, Andrew will also be running the first half of Becoming Inummarik to approximately 20 Community Social Workers at the Mamisarvik Healing Centre in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, we continue working toward expanding the initial pilot program into a three-level mental health training program with the aim of developing Inuit mental health practitioners, trained in Inuit-specific approaches, who can serve Inuit wherever they live.