A $1.5 million grant is going to help a five-year research project focused on strengthening mental wellness and suicide prevention for elders in B.C.’s Northern Interior.
UNBC’s Dr Henry Harder and Dr. Travis Holyk with Carrier Sekani Family Services have received the grant to pursue this research project as stated in an April 2 release.
The funding has been provided through the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Warner Adam, CEO of Carrier Sekani Family Services said, “The issue of suicide among Indigenous communities is typically much higher than that of the Canadian population, and while society continues to look for solutions to address this matter, it falls short on a successful strategy and funding.”
Adam said suicide and suicidal ideation prevention programs in the elderly population is ‘virtually non-existent.’
“Along with our partners we hope to examine strategies so that we can provide some insight on policy, program design and delivery based on our findings,” he said.
Over the past decade Harder and Holyk have collaborated with regional First Nations communities and stakeholders to examine and enhance mental health wellness in indigenous youth and young adults.
Holyk said: “This research from its reception has been community led, and it was our communities that indicated that mental health and suicide prevention needed to be addressed.
“The work to date has supported our organizational vision of providing services throughout the life cycle, and this next phase will help to complete the continuum as we seek to develop sustainable interventions for elders.”
Holyk is an adjunct professor at UNBC as well as the executive director research, primary care and strategic services for Carrier Sekani Family Services.
Meanwhile, Harder said there is a huge gap of psychological services in the North.
“The motivation for our ongoing work has been to provide support and assistance to communities that are often underserved,” he said.
“We are looking at ways to empower First Nation communities to look at what services they themselves can provide to be of assistance to their fellow community members and to help make their communities a healthier place to be, emotionally and psychologically as well as physically,” Harder said.
Harder is a psychology and health sciences professor at UNBC as well as the Dr. Donald B. Rix B.C. Leadership Chair for Aboriginal Environmental Health.
Over the next five years, the aim is to develop tools and activities that help further increase community mental wellness and improve access to intervention over the course of life with a specific focus on elders, according to the release.
“The project will implement and evaluate intervention across member nations of Carrier Sekani Family Services. It will also seek to share the suite of materials created through the study with other First Nation communities,” as stated in the release.
The project partners and in-kind contributors include Northern Health, UNBC, Carrier Sekani Family Services and numerous Indigenous stakeholders across the north.
Meanwhile, indigenous research methodology will be used as the framework for all phases of the project.
Harder said that indigenous methodology starts and ends with community.
“It means working with community members who help us to identify the project priorities and also point to the best ways to uncover the information needed to find solutions and best outcomes. Basically, it puts the community ahead of the researcher and we only pursue activities that directly benefit the community,” he said.