Healing Journeys

October 2020

Indigenous Men’s Reflections on Strengths and Barriers to Mental Wellness

Lack of research focused on Indigenous men’s mental health has created a gap in understanding how Indigenous men are healing and the barriers they face along the way. Researchers from Brandon University collaborated with Indigenous community leaders in an attempt to bring to light the strengths and challenges faced by Indigenous men on their mental health journeys. Through sharing circles and individual interviews, researchers and community partners learned from the Indigenous men who participated. Here is a brief description of what we learned:

Mental Health Language:
The term “mental health” is a term from the English language and does not necessarily translate across cultures. The men in the study focused on spirituality as a road to wellness. For example, one man stated, “Every psychological problem would have a spiritual solution to it. If you’re working on spirituality, you’re working on your mental health.”

Sharing Experience:
Men displayed pride in themselves and respect for the other members in the group for opening up about their experiences. The men valued the sharing circle and explained how important community connection is in their healing journeys.

Over Coming Barriers & Setting Boundaries:
Men discussed their internal battles and unresolved grief. They noted that the sacrifice of walking away from people who brought them down was worth it, although challenging and often lonely. Jason Gobeil, co-leader of the sharing circles, added to this discussion by adding that it’s okay to “be better” and rise above the negative stereotypes.

Healing Through Culture:
Ceremony was identified as a pillar within the men’s healing processes. A strong connection to culture was noted to be a protective factor against adverse mental health for the men. Many of the men from the study were very interested in continuing the men’s’ circles at the completion of the research.

Considering the findings, it is clear that there is still a lot room for improvement within mental health care for Indigenous men. One man described the feeling of “living in two different worlds,” which can speak to the disconnect between Western and Indigenous healing practices. We hope that this research will provide a small bridge across the gap in research and care practices. We encourage others to embrace Indigenous healing, be open to the understandings, experiences, and healing journeys of Indigenous men.

For more detail about the study, please click here.

By: Margaret de Jager, Frank Tacan, Jason Gobeil, Candice Waddell and Rachel Herron

Margaret de Jager is a fourth year Psychiatric Nursing Student and a Research Assistant in the Rural and Remote Mental Health Lab.
Frank Tacan is a Spiritual Leader at the Brandon Friendship Centre.
Jason Gobeil is the Onitika/Ogichidaa (Warrior) Wellness Coordinator at Dakota Ojibway Child & Family Services Inc.
Candice Waddell is a registered Psychiatric Nurse and an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Studies at Brandon University
Rachel Herron is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Brandon University and a Canada Research Chair in Rural and Remote Mental Health

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