National Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research (NAMHR)
This proposal details a plan to sustain and further develop an already operational and highly successful National Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research (NAMHR). The NAMHR is committed to building capacity for mental health and addictions research in remote, rural and urban settings by working in partnership with Aboriginal organizations and communities. Our network includes leading researchers in Aboriginal mental health and community partners from across Canada. The renewed NAMHR will have three broad objectives: (1) training new researchers, especially from Aboriginal backgrounds, to develop the capacity for mental health and addictions research in Aboriginal communities; (2) developing and coordinating research partnerships and collaborations among investigators and Aboriginal communities across Canada to provide opportunities for mutual learning and to produce knowledge relevant to community needs and priorities; and (3) engaging in innovative knowledge translation activities to guide research and apply findings to develop more culturally appropriate and effective mental health policy, promotion and intervention. The research areas of this NEAHR cover several priorities of the IAPH RFA: mental health, complex interactions of social and cultural factors in well-being, health services and policy, and indigenous healing.
To build capacity the NAMHR will develop a wide range of training activities, including: an annual advanced study institute, specialized workshops on research methods and priority topics, summer internships for students, graduate training in mental health research at masters, doctoral and post-doctoral levels, and web-based distance learning to share resources across the country and reach rural and remote communities. Capacity building will take place in the context of a broad program of research and training activities that will include the methods of ethnography, epidemiology, psychometrics, community-based participatory research and other quantitative and qualitative research approaches that are culturally responsive and appropriate for work in diverse communities. A major focus will be training researchers in more effective methods of knowledge translation for community mental health workers, policy makers and planners. This will include a process for cultural mentoring of researchers. We will also develop a curriculum for the training of mental health professionals in Aboriginal issues.
The specific research focus of the NAMHR will reflect priorities identified through ongoing consultation and collaboration with our community partners. At present these priorities include: (1) social and developmental determinants of mental health and resilience; (2) collaborative models of healing and mental health services for both common and severe mental disorders (depression, stress and trauma-related disorders, transgenerational trauma, indigenous conflict resolution); (3) causes and treatment of substance abuse, gambling and additions; (4) suicide prevention and mental health promotion; and (5) child maltreatment and protection.
The NAMHR will foster culturally responsive research that can provide a sound basis for refining models of mental health services, intervention, and health promotion in Aboriginal communities. Existing approaches to ‘best practices’ in mental health care give insufficient attention to the impact of social and cultural contexts. It is crucial that models of assessment, intervention and mental health promotion include a wide range of alternatives that fit different social situations, cultural systems of knowledge, as well as individual preferences. Research on promising practices in mental health must consider their impact on individuals, families, and communities. The NAMHR will provide a unique environment to develop community-based evaluative research and promote knowledge translation activities using the arts, media, and the Internet, in addition to scientific publications, to reach the widest circle of stakeholders and concerned individuals in community, policy, and practice settings.