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"Strengthening Families Together - First Nations" - A Mental Illness Education and Support for First Nations

Posted: 23 Oct 2018
by Jean
Strengthening Families Together - First Nations: Our Story, Our Journey, Our Strength

Strengthening Families Together – First Nations (SFT-FN) is an education course for family members and friends of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness that provides support, awareness and tools in a culturally safe environment. Based on the existing Strengthening Families Together course which offered families affect by mental illness education and support, SFT-FN grew out of a strong belief that First Nations families have the right to receiving appropriate mental illness education contextualized within their cultural experiences. Local resources, elders and other guest speakers are highlighted, invited to speak and incorporated into each course to meet the needs of that local community. Through SFT-FN, participants are able to share family stories, walk the journey together and move forward with renewed strength, hope and understanding.

With the support of the Community Action Initiative, B.C. Schizophrenia Society has now completed the pilot phase of SFT-FN and is continuing to offer this course for First Nations families seeking education and support in select communities across B.C.

“I was very satisfied. There was so much information and it had to sink in. We sat around and talked afterwards. I understand the connection with our street drugs and mental illness. If you get an Elder that will speak, it is good to hear stories from long ago, and sit and listen to the messages. Not only speaking our language, hearing culturally what we did in the past. I think to continue learning about mental illness will benefit our community.”

- A Nak'azdli Band Family Member


“This program ‘saved me.’ It was hard walking through the invisible line that was created with non-First Nations and First Nations [services. Through SFT-FN] I was welcomed, and now know that I am not alone. I have gained knowledge through storytelling, communication and the supportive environment provided. My family is now more open, [and] we are communicating better. I now see my son in a better way.”

- A Fort St. James Family Member


Since 2017, the Interior Region has experienced much discord due to the increasing number of wildfires, and families already affected by mental health and substance use are further burdened with additional stress and anxiety. As a result, through the support of Interior Health Authority, BCSS will be running this valuable program four more times in the region to help families find strategies to cope and build resilience.

Discussions have begun with First Nations communities where it is anticipated that SFT-FN will be offered, including Bonaparte, Stone, Canoe/Dog Creek, Canim Lake and Ulkatcho with the goal of offering families education and support. Courses are anticipated to begin late October and run through until December. For more information, email sft-fn@bcss.org or call 250-302-1210.

Visit the BCSS website to learn more about Strengthening Families Together – First Nations (https://www.bcss.org/strengthening-families-together/).

Additional Resources:

Read more about the Strengthening Families Together–First Nations pilot in the Visions article, "Our Story, Our Journey, Our Strength." (http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/indigenous-people-vol11/our-story-our-journey-our-strength) The new BC Schizophrenia Society Strengthening Families Together – First Nations pilot project.

Adria's Story, a video from Strengthening Families Together – First Nations, shares the story of Adria, a young woman living with schizophrenia, and her journey through mental illness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=A-KufbHnxjQ

Aboriginal Journeys in Mental Health - Walking the Path Together is a documentary that follows the journeys of six Aboriginal people living with mental illness. A traditional healer, a healing circle and an elder provide a safe place for the storytelling. Available through the Fraser Valley Regional Library (https://www.fvrl.bc.ca/)or contact BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information at 1-800-661-2121 to order the DVD.

First Nations Health Authority is a province-wide health authority that works in partnership with First Nations communities to support the health and well-being of First Nations people in B.C. http://www.fnha.ca/