Summary: Report 10

The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples

Proceedings of the Advanced Study Institute
The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples
McGill Summer Program in Social & Cultural Psychiatry
and the Aboriginal Mental Health Research Team
May 29 — May 31, 2000
Montreal, Quebec

Laurence J. Kirmayer
Mary Ellen Macdonald
Gregory M. Brass

Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry Sir Mortimer B. Davis – Jewish General Hospital


Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry, McGill University

© 2001
Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry
McGill University


Preface & Acknowledgement - pg. 3

1. Introduction
The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples
– Laurence J. Kirmayer, Gregory M. Brass & Caroline L. Tait - pg. 5

2. Social Origins of Distress
"The Deep Sleep of Forgetfulness": Reflecting on Disremembering
– Ernest Hunter - pg. 26
Health Implications of Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict and Contemporary Wars In Latin America
– Duncan Pedersen - pg. 47
The Legacy of the 'Stolen Generations' in Australia
– Jane H. Mckendrick - pg. 69

3. Individual And Collective Responses To Suffering
An Overview of Suicide in Indigenous Australia
– Ernest Hunter - pg. 81
Aboriginal Identity and the Construction of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
– Caroline L. Tait - pg. 95

4. Transformations of Identity & Community
Healing the Aboriginal Offender: Identity Construction
Through Therapeutic Practice
– Gregory M. Brass - pg. 112
Towards A Recuperation of Souls and Bodies: Community Healing
and the Complex Interplay Of Faith And History
– Naomi Adelson - pg. 120
Negotiating Health: Meanings of Building a Healthy Community in Igloolik
– Kristiann Allen - pg. 135
The Problem of "Culture" and the Counseling of Aboriginal Peoples
– James B. Waldram - pg. 145

5. Models For Collaborative Research & Mental Health Services
Working in Partnership: Innovative Collaborative Research
Between Aboriginal Communities and an Academic Unit
– Jane H. Mckendrick - pg. 160
Comments on Hollow Water Community Healing
– Joseph Couture - pg. 173
An Overview of Six Nations Mental Health Services
– Cornelia Wieman - pg. 177
Contributors & Discussants - pg. 186
Contact Information - pg. 190
Conference Schedule - pg. 192
Annual McGill Summer Program in Social & Cultural Psychiatry - pg. 193
Aboriginal Mental Health Research Team - pg. 194

Preface and acknowledgement

This report presents the proceedings of a conference on "The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples" organized by the Aboriginal Mental Health Team of the Culture & Mental Health Unit, Sir Mortimer B. Davis–Jewish General Hospital in Montreal May 29-31, 2000. The conference was organized in conjunction with the Annual Summer Program in Social and Cultural Psychiatry of the Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University.

The aim of the meeting was to bring together experts on mental health research among indigenous peoples in Canada, the US and Australia to exchange perspectives, methods and models for research and service delivery. The meeting was supported by grants from the Conseil québecois de la recherche sociale.

Many people assisted with the organization of the conference and the subsequent preparation of these proceedings. We thank all of our colleagues and the staff of the CMHRU for their help and support.

It is our hope that this report will help those working in and with Aboriginal communities in Canada and elsewhere to conduct meaningful research and promote culturally responsive mental health services.

Laurence J. Kirmayer
Montreal, January 2001

1. Introduction

The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples:
Transformations of Identity and Community
Laurence J. Kirmayer, Gregory M. Brass, and Caroline L. Tait

Abstract: This paper reviews some recent research on the mental health of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis of Canada. We summarize evidence for the social origins of mental health problems and illustrate the ongoing responses of individuals and communities to the legacy of colonization. Cultural discontinuity and oppression have been linked to high rates of depression, alcoholism, suicide, and violence in many communities, with the most dramatic impact on youth. Despite these challenges, many communities have done well and research is needed to identify the factors that promote wellness. Cultural psychiatry can contribute to rethinking mental health services and health promotion for Indigenous populations and communities.

Résumé: Cet article examine un certain nombre de recherches récentes portant sur la santé mentale des Premières Nations, des Inuits et des Métis du Canada. Nous récapitulons les preuves militant en faveur des origines sociales des problèmes de santé mentale et illustrons les réponses actuelles d'individus et de communautés face à l'héritage de la colonisation. La discontinuité culturelle et l'oppression ont été associées à des taux élevés de dépression, d'alcoolisme, de suicide, et de violence dans de nombreuses communautés, avec l'impact le plus dramatique exercé sur la jeunesse. En dépit de ces défis, nombre de communautés s'en sont très bien tirées et de la recherche s'avère nécessaire afin de pouvoir identifier les facteurs qui favorisent le bien-être. La psychiatrie culturelle peut contribuer à repenser les services de soins en santé mentale et la promotion de la santé pour les populations et communautés autochtones.

For more information, contact:

Culture & Mental Health Research Unit
Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital
4333 Côte Ste Catherine Road
Montreal, Quebec
H3T 1E4

Tel.: 514-340-8222 x 5246
Fax: 514-340-7503
Email: mice [at]

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